Search for your sports books:

Featured Publisher: John Blake
Apart form its current publications, John Blake Publishing has a sizeable back list of acclaimed sporting titles. These include biographies of stars such as Roger Federer, WG Grace, Fernando Torres and Frankie Dettori. For more information, visit www.blake.co.uk



Read Review
<back to archive

Once Upon A Time In Naples by John Ludden

Release date: 01st July, 2005
Publisher: Parrs Wood Press

List Price: £9.95
Our Price: £6.96
You Save: £2.99 (30%)
Buy Now

Once Upon A Time In Naples
By John Ludden
Parrs Wood Press

4Sportsbooks.co.uk price: £6.96 (saving £2.99 on published price)

Oh no! Not another book about Diego Maradona, this time about the seven incident-packed years he spent at Naples, during which he led them to the Serie A title? Ho, hum, you might think, as I did before embarking on the first chapter, but I was soon engrossed. John Ludden has created that rarity among the sporting genre: a genuine page-turner which rates among the best sports books I've read all year.

The book maintains a cracking pace throughout, with Ludden frequently infusing his tale with religious imagery, a constant, if unsubtle, reminder of the diminutive midfielder's status among his newly-discovered Neapolitan family. From the moment he arrives in Naples by helicopter "like an angel descending from heaven", Maradona came as close to a footballing deity as any player ever has. Lovingly embraced at first by all quarters of a city "where the devil would have needed a bodyguard", once he casts out a pregnant Cristina Sinagra, the locals begin to cast doubt on his true character and his previously divine mask begins to slip.

But this is not an elongated tabloid romp. From the outset, Ludden builds tension and excitement into each facet of Maradona's complicated Neapolitan foray, including Napoli's unlikely surge for the Scudetto, the Italian title.

In the early 1980s, Napoli's president of fourteen years, Corrado Ferlaino, was under enormous pressure to inject style, a presence, into his club which would finally allow it to challenge Italian football's northern dominance. The author's description of Naples as a dirty, poor, corrupt, grudge-bearing metropolis where gangsters have ultimate control has presumably not been sanctioned by the city's tourist board. Yet this background is important to Ludden's tale as it was, he suggests, crucial in convincing Maradona, who hailed from a similar background, to leave the sophistication of Barcelona for the toe of Italy.

Barcelona had bought the Argentine for $7.3m, but his antics and cocaine-fuelled sessions with Spanish prostitutes hastened his departure from the Nou Camp.

The enjoyable story of Maradona's transfer reads like a fifteenth century dispute between Europe's city states. A fee of $13m had been agreed between the two clubs when Barcelona's president issued a further decree to one of his emissaries, telling him "to make Naples bleed" by asking for a further $600,000. Ferlaino didn't have the cash: the money was collected from Naples' grateful poor in a day.

Maradona was understandably keen to move to Italy. The $3m he earned at Barcelona had disappeared thanks to his extravagant lifestyle, gambling, drugs and several ridiculous commercial ventures. Signing for Naples guaranteed him a $6m signing-on fee, although throughout his stay, he was "a puppet dangling on a gangster's string."

While at Napoli, Maradona played perhaps the most outstanding football of his blighted career, but a diet of unremitting debauchery is not recommended for a professional athlete. The drugs sustained Maradona for as long as he could 'do the business' on the pitch; urine samples were changed or officials were 'advised' by solid-looking men in long overcoats that Maradona should not be selected for post-match drugs testing.

The end came when Naples' powerbrokers had had enough. Recognising that the club could save two years' astronomic wages, in 1991, Maradona was 'allowed' to finally fail a drugs test which resulted in his immediate suspension. The game was up; he was no more than "a lousy cokehead" and he knew it.

Ludden underpins the lurid tales with a magnificent (and plausible) conspiracy theory, one which, no doubt, contributed to the book's title, a take on Sergio Leone's 1984 film, One Upon A Time In America. On this occasion, however, the mobsters win.







<back to archive


Toolstation


SBOTM Current Top 10

The Hardmen: Legends of the Cycling Gods By Frank Strack
Pursuit Books
Read Review Buy Now
The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide to Football Glory By David Bolchover
Biteback
Read Review Buy Now
Tom Simpson: Bird On A Wire By Andy McGrath
Bloomsbury Sport
Read Review Buy Now
But Seriously An Autobiography By John McEnroe
W & N
Read Review Buy Now
The Descent By Thomas Dekker
Ebury Press
Read Review Buy Now
The Fall of the House of FIFA By David Conn
Yellow Jersey Press
Read Review Buy Now
Gentleman and Player The Story of Colin Cowdrey, Cricket’s Most Elegant and Charming Batsman By Andrew Murtagh
Pitch Publishing
Read Review Buy Now
The Premier League: 25 Years By Lloyd Pettiford
Urbane Publications
Read Review Buy Now
Johnny Haynes Portrait of a Football Genius By James Gardner
Pitch Publishing
Read Review Buy Now
The Billionaires Club: The Unstoppable Rise of Football’s Super-Rich Owners By James Montague
Bloomsbury Sport
Read Review Buy Now

Amazon’s top 6 best-sellers

© Sharks Media Ltd 2004 – 2012. Site designed and maintained by Marcus Hamblett for Furydesign.