Retrocon 2024

Legendary Soccer Icons of the ‘80s

Throughout most of the last couple of decades, two players have dominated world soccer headlines, creating an ongoing debate about which of this dynamic duo is the ‘GOAT’ – the Greatest Of All Time. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have certainly lived up to their impressive reputations, although if they were active in a previous era, one has to wonder if they would have achieved the same levels of success.

Such theoretical questions are open to debate, of course, as both players have amassed millions of adoring fans around the whole globe, during an era in which soccer has never been more accessible to the masses. Everyone knows who these superstars are, from Timbuktu to Thailand. In fact, the best online sports betting options are covered by Asiabet, with site reviews backed by expert analysis of where to find the best odds and offers, including those for top soccer competitions. Like soccer, online betting is a worldwide activity and you can even find betting sites in Zambia.

But had Messi and Ronaldo been around in the ‘80s, would you have backed them to compete on equal terms to some of the soccer stars of that decade? The ‘beautiful game’ has changed and evolved over the years, yet the brightest of talents have always risen to make their mark. These are some of the most legendary and iconic figures from the ‘80s, players who remain strong in our collective memories, dazzling fans with their abilities during an unforgettable decade.

The Dutch Masters of Milan

Last season AC Milan finally won the 2021-22 Serie A title, following a barren spell that had lasted a decade, inspiring bright hopes the current generation of players can enter a new golden era. This inevitably brings fond back memories of the late ‘80s team, which headed into a period of unprecedented success for the Milanese club, driven by the dynamic abilities of three remarkable Dutch players. They would ultimately contribute to making a genuine difference, turning an already good side into one that was capable of achieving greatness.

It all began in 1987, when AC Milan president Silvio Burlusconi signed his first two members of his Dutch foreign legion, paying a then world record transfer fee to land Ruud Gullit from PSV Eindhoven, followed by the arrival of Marco van Basten from Ajax. The outstanding attacking duo made an instant impact and by the end of the 1987-88 campaign, the Rossoneri (red & blacks) had claimed their first Serie A title in almost a decade. But this was just the spark that set the ball rolling, as Berlusconi brought in another Dutchman ahead of the 1988-89 season.

Frank Rijkaard had already demonstrated his formative talents with Ajax, before signing for Portuguese outfit Sporting CP in 1987, albeit too late to be registered. They loaned him to Real Zaragoza in Spain, where the physically powerful and tactically tenacious attributes truly came to the fore. He was also pivotal for the Netherlands national team alongside Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit. Indeed, goals from Van Basten and Gullit crowned Netherlands’ EURO 1988 final win against USSR, while Rijkaard was a rock in defence.

While he had played as a central defender at the Euros, upon arriving at AC Milan, head coach Arrigo Sacchi spotted some hidden potential in Rijkaard, converting him from a defender and into a genuinely world class holding midfielder. Now forming part of a dynamic trio of Dutchmen at club level, in good company with Van Basten and Gullit, the crowning glory was achieved when AC Milan won the European Cup in 1989. The following 1989-90 season, they lifted the famous trophy again, as the club established an unforgettably lasting legacy.

The One & Only Diego Maradona

Many people insist that Lionel Messi defies comparison, firm in their belief that he is the greatest player ever to grace a soccer pitch. Nevertheless, while his talents and achievements are undoubtedly breathtaking, there is another Argentina legend who managed to achieve what Messi never has. Diego Maradona lifted the FIFA World Cup in 1986, arguably carrying what was regarded as a pretty average team. What’s more, this wasn’t the only time he single-handedly brought victorious times to an unfancied side.

After missing out on the 1978 tournament, Diego Maradona at World Cup 1982 was a sight to behold, even if his national team fell short in the second group stage. However, the Argentine ace was at his absolute peak when the 1986 World Cup rolled around in Mexico, even considering his national team was now considered to be average at best. Anything was possible, highlighted by the quarter-final triumph against England. Following the ‘Hand of God’ incident for the opener, Maradona scored arguably the greatest World Cup goal of all time, securing a memorable 2-1 victory.

Not only was Maradona key reason why Argentina won the World Cup in 1986, he went on to prove this was no fluke. Already a Napoli player and wowing fans in Italy since 1984, they still hadn’t managed to win a league title. All that changed in the 1986-87 campaign, when Maradona led the Neapolitan side to their first ever Serie A title and an Italian Cup double, setting his relatively modest club on the path of unprecedented success.

Just to underline this achievement, Maradona was instrumental when his team won the UEFA Cup in 1989, then lifted the 1989-90 Serie A title again during the 1989-90 season. Given what the individual brilliance of Maradona achieved with his club and country, regardless of his off the pitch activities and vices, this is why Argentine fans continue to regard him as the greatest footballer of all time, even ahead of modern-day icon Lionel Messi.

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