Diego Maradona very nearly ended up playing for Tottenham Hotspur, according to former striker Teddy Sheringham.
Maradona, often celebrated as the best footballer to have ever played the game, wore the Spurs colours during Ossie Ardiles’ testimonial in 1986 (as shown in the above pic where he’s being schooled by another legend, Liam Brady), but nearly made his stay in North London a more permanent one in 1994.
Speaking on Stadium Astro’s League of Legends, Sheringham revealed that it was Ardiles himself, then-manager of Tottenham, who broached the topic of Maradona to which the forward emphatically in the affirmative:
“I got on really well with Ossie, and I think I was the captain at the time, and Ossie came to me one day and said ‘I want your opinion, I’m thinking about signing someone’.
“And I was like ‘go on’ and he was like ‘Diego Maradona’, and I went ‘Ossie, Ossie, really!? Are you? Do it, just do it’.
“He said ‘I’m in talks with him at the moment’ and I was like ‘my God, do it, it would be brilliant to play with him’.
“He came to me about three days later and was like ‘I’ve decided not to sign Diego, he’s got too much baggage around him’.”
The ‘baggage’ that Sheringham is referring to is, of course, the drugs issue that brought Maradona’s career to a sorry end. Sent home from 1994 World Cup in disgrace for ephedrine doping, the former Argentine’s heavy use of cocaine was already well-known and convinced Ardiles that he didn’t want that around the club.
Nonetheless, he did sign a superstar forward that summer – one that Sheringham was equally happy with – in the form of German international Jurgen Klinsmann:
“I just couldn’t believe that Jurgen had just won the World Cup, and he was coming to Tottenham, and he was a revelation at Tottenham.”
Ardiles was sacked in October 1994, and Klinsmann had two spells at Spurs between 1994 and 1998, scoring 39 goals in 68 appearances in all competitions in that time.