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When Maradona anointed his Napoli number 10 successor

Following the scoreless draw between Juventus and Internazionale last night, Napoli can go top of Serie A today if they win at home to Fiorentina (edit: they didn’t, as that game finished 0-0, too).

Of course, the last time the Naples club were Italian champions was in 1990, inspired to a second title in four years by Diego Maradona. The following season, 1990-91, was when things began to unravel for the Argentinian as a number of what we’ll mildly term as different incidents arose.

He knew that it would be his last season in Italy and so he began to put a succession plan in place.

Nowadays, Napoli don’t have a number 10, having retired it in Maradona’s honour in 2000. However, the man himself seems to be in favour of new greats wearing it, having challenged Ezequiel Lavezzi in 2001 and Lorenzo Insigne last summer to earn it. Twenty-six years ago, he did similar with another up-and-comer.

For a game away to Pisa of February 17, 1991, Napoli were turned out in their red third shirts and Maradona looked more out of place than most:

A mistake by the kitman? No, Maradona had decided that a young Gianfranco Zola should wear 10. As reported here, he told reporters afterwards that Zola was the future of the club.

Napoli drew that game with Pisa 1-1, and while Zola would wear the number 10 shirt for the following two seasons, it was at Parma that he became more widely known, Napoli forced to sell him in the summer of 1993.

From Parma, he went to Chelsea in 1996, where he was a top-quality ‘number 10’ in the positional sense, without ever actually wearing it – 25 was his squad number there until he retired in 2003. It was never officially retired, but has not been issued since.

There was one instance during his time at Chelsea where he wore 9 instead of 25, but that’s a story for another day.

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When Maradona anointed his Napoli number 10 successor