It’s a tale that sounds far too unlikely to be true, but there really was a time when Diego Maradona could’ve signed for Sheffield United.
After a career and lifestyle that took him to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, the Argentinian died this week, but in death as in life he will never be forgotten.
So just how close did the Blades come to prising the 18-year-old Maradona from his homeland? It’s hard to believe but a deal had been agreed.
For all intents and purposes, he would be plying his trade at Bramall Lane from the start of the 1979 season, just a few short months after Argentina had triumphed in the World Cup final.
“My father was out in Argentina in Buenos Aires with a couple of his coaches, Danny Begara and Oscar Acre,” Keith Haslam, son of then Sheffield United manager, Harry Haslam, recalled to Sky Sports.
“He was trying to line up a deal with Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles but Sheffield United couldn’t afford the money that was required at the time and Tottenham got them.
“My dad was looking around for another player and the super-kid at the time was Diego.
“They negotiated a deal, which was accepted (by Argentinos Juniors), of £400,000, but the chairman of Sheffield United, John Hassell, said, ‘There isn’t a player at 18 worth £400,000, so we can’t do the deal’.
“Everything else was lined up. It would have made Sheffield United. My father joked with the chairman, ‘We don’t need supporters – we’ll have enough scouts watching Sheffield United.
“But my father moved on and signed Alex Sabella as a replacement.”
He was certainly the one that got away as far as Sheffield United are concerned, and how different things may have ended up if John Hassell had a little more faith in his staff.