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Mauricio's Argentina: 'Maradona was my room-mate!'

Posted on 10 November 2016  - 14:40

Mauricio Pochettino is the boy from a small town in Argentina who went from watching the 1978 World Cup on a black and white TV to playing on the world’s biggest stage in 2002. In this mini-series, Mauricio tells us about all things Argentina – growing up loving the game, Maradona and what it was like to represent his country. Part Two - Mauricio and Maradona.

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Think back, for a moment, to your boyhood footballing hero. It might have been Jimmy Greaves, perhaps Glenn Hoddle, Gazza and Gary Lineker, Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham to Robbie Keane and Gareth Bale.

Imagine that player joining your club, and then becoming your room-mate.

That’s what happened to Mauricio Pochettino in 1993, when Diego Maradona walked through the door at Newell’s Old Boys.

Below: Maradona in 1979

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Regarded by many as the best player of all-time - and voted joint-first with Pele for FIFA'S Player of the 20th Century - Maradona broke into the Argentina first team aged 16 in 1977 and went on to earn 93 caps, scoring 34 goals. As captain, his performances dragged Argentina to the final of the World Cup in 1986 and he went on to lift the trophy at the Azteca Stadium.

Mauricio watched all that from afar. When Maradona made his full debut, Mauricio was five. When he lifted the World Cup in 1986, Mauricio was 14. Seven years later, he was in the same room as his idol.

“For me, Maradona is the best player I have seen in my life,” said Mauricio. “It’s true you have Messi, Cristiano, Pele, Di Stefano and Cruyff but for me, Maradona is the best. It’s my generation.

Below: Mauricio

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'It was like a movie'

“Then you have the possibility to be close to him - the charisma, the personality, everything.

“It was a dream to play with him. He was my room-mate! It was unbelievable. On the first day, I went to go to sleep in the room, I could not sleep! It was like a dream or you are in a movie.”

Now 21, Mauricio was already a regular at Newell’s Old Boys in the city of Rosario and an Argentina Premier League ‘Apertura’ (1990-91) and ‘Clausura’ (1991-92) title winner. Indeed, he would soon depart for Espanyol. Meanwhile, Maradona had returned ‘home’ to Argentina after a spell in La Liga with Sevilla.

“It was fantastic,” continued Mauricio. “I learned things you cannot buy, things you cannot teach.

Below: Maradona in 1986

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“For me, the most important thing I learned from him was that to be a great footballer, you need to love the game, to love training, to love sharing with your team-mates, to love touching the football. That was important.

“Maradona is Maradona because he had an unbelievable talent but one thing is important, he respects the game, he loves the game, he always loved his team-mates and respected his team-mates. That’s why Maradona is Maradona.”

Mauricio's Argentina, Part One: 'A football was my only toy' - HERE

Tomorrow - Mauricio on what it meant to represent Argentina