Diego Maradona's star, one of the brigest ever in the international soccer, has been eclipsed by scandals, drugs and disciplinary tangles.
The decline of the 30-year-old Argentine forward has taken on increasing momentum lately, and critics believe that the soccer career of one of the world's most popular and highest-paid players may be flaming out.The Italian Soccer Federation announced Friday that Maradona had tested positive for cocaine, and he faces a suspension of between six months and two years.
"It's the end of an idol, of a great player," said Italo Cucci, editor of Corriere dello Sport, an all-sports newspaper based in Rome. "It's a painful end for a man who fascinated the crowds from the field."
In the madcap world of Italian soccer, the best league in the world, Maradona has gone from top to bottom in less than a year.
"When your popularity is waning, everybody throws stones at you," he said in a recent interview. "I am prepared for this possibility."
Maradona, who has played in Italy since 1984, has been busier in the courts than on soccer fields recently. He has been questioned by Naples prosecutors in connection with an investigation into a suspected drug trafficking-and-prostitution operation and sued by a Neapolitan woman in a controversial paternity case.
In addition, he has lost the support of Neapolitan fans, who had welcomed him as a Messiah when he joined Napoli on a then-record $12 million transfer fee.
His his magic left foot helped Napoli to its first two Italian League titles in 1987 and 1990 and the 1989 UEFA Cup. He led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and the 1990 World Cup final.
"Maradona is the great player every team wants to have," former West Germany coach Franz Beckenbauer once said.
"If Maradona was in my team, Belgium would have been in the final," Belgium coach Guy Thys said at the 1986 World Cup.
But lately, his relations with some reputed Neapolitan underworld figures and his passion for luxury, fast Ferraris and motorboats have been questioned.