Until 1995, the France Football magazine, in charge of organizing the Ballon d’Or gala, had as a rule reward only European footballers. Consequently, during the years in which Diego Maradona had clearly been the best player of the season (1986, 1987 and 1990, for example), other players were crowned. An example, in the season in which he became world champion in Mexico 1986, the award was in the hands of the Ukrainian Igor Belanov, who had won the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Dynamo Kiev and had scored four goals with his team in the World Cup that saw the best Pelusa.
Well, consequently, the Ten did receive a Ballon d’Or in 86: the one that rewards the best player in the World Cup, a bid in which German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher and Danish forward Preben Elkjaer Larsen prevailed.
But three years later, the accolade faded from the Banco della Province of Naples, where it was stored. A group of thieves also took a large number of valuable objects, including several luxury watches.
However, Diego, then 29 years old, the only thing that mattered to him was the Ballon d’Or, a memory of his epic in Mexico with the Argentine team. For this reason, he moved contacts and communicated with one of the leaders of the Neapolitan mafia, Salvatore lo russo, to help him regain what he had lost in the robbery. This is how Lo Russo recognized it to the prosecutors of the Naples DDA (Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate) Sergio Amato and Enrica Parascandolo in 2010 after their arrest, according to the story published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
“I had Maradona retrieve the watches through “Peppe ‘o biondo”, who found them in Picuozzi (the men of the Mariano clan) in the Spanish neighborhoods ”, pointed out the leader of the“ Capitoni ”. But for the World Cup Golden Ball it was too late. They had already melted it.
“It was not possible to recover it because they had already melted it. I also sent to the place a sum of 15 million lire, but they returned it to me because the trophy was already gone ”, evoked Lo Russo.
Nevertheless, in 1995, France Football awarded him an honorary Ballon d’Or in recognition of his best years, in which the absurd rule was not awarded. But fate, fateful, also took it from him.
In July 2014, the house where her father Don Diego lived in Villa Devoto suffered a fire, with a focus on the ground floor. “There was nothing left”, declared then the environment of the Ten. Among the lost material goods there were several relics that represented different milestones in the history of the star. One: the Ballon d’Or.
For Diego, the loss of the award was a blow to the heart: he took it a retroactive and fair tribute, and he had received it from the hands of another myth like Alfredo Di Stéfano. In October 2020 the chance arose to have it replaced. When his environment informed him of the request for an interview by the French publication, the then technical director of Gimnasia La Plata put the only requirement to recover his Ballon d’Or. At least, a replica of the one lost in the ashes.
It was then that the interview almost fell into the abyss: according to their representatives explained to Maradona’s inner circle, France Football had never commissioned (and consequently delivered) a replica of his Ballon d’Or. The award (it weighs more than 7 kilograms ) has a manufacturing cost of around 3,000 euros, it is bathed in gold, perches on a pyrite pedestal and six goldsmiths from a French workshop work on it. Not even the winners (Lionel Messi, with six, and Cristiano Ronaldo, with five) received a gesture like the one requested by Pelusa. But they finally agreed.
Sure, on November 25, the recipient of the reply died. And the extra Ballon d’Or never traveled from France to Argentina. It will be necessary to see if, in the future, France Football decides to fulfill the promise, giving it to his heirs, as a post mortem award for a symbol of world football, one of its highest representatives throughout history.