Agent Josep Maria Minguella wrote a number of articles for SPORT in 2018 remembering the first big signing he got involved in: Diego Maradona's move to Barcelona.
Following the death of the Argentina legend this week, we're reproducing them this week:
I discovered Diego very young and by coincidence. He was so good that I quickly offered him to Barça, in concrete to their general manager, Jaume Rosell, Sandro's father. At the time, the club president was Agustí Montal Costa and they ruled out a deal. The cost was only 100,000 dollars but he was only 16 and I understood they couldn't take a chance at that moment.
It was 1977 and two years later negotiations finally began. They were closed in 1980 following a long process. Everything was tied down, but 15 or 20 days later, Julio Grondona, the president of the AFA, called me. There were problems with the transfer, he told me, and I had to return to Argentina to be interviewed by the Ministry of Social Welfare, by Admiral Lacoste, who had reached the position thanks to his good work organising the World Cup in 1978, that Argentina won as hosts with Menotti as coach. Maradona was left out of the squad because he was still very young. His place was taken by a certain Kempes.
Lacoste called me to a setting worthy of a horror film. Later I found out that many people that had disappeared had been taken there by the dictatorship. After being received by a soldier, I entered a dark tunnel with a small light at the end. There was the Admiral, who quickly made things clear to me: "You cannot sign Diego now. We need him for your World Cup (Spain 1982)." Said and done. Diego didn't move.
We had to wait and the operation became even more complicated. Argentinos Juniors loaned Maradona to Boca Juniors with an option to buy, but tat the moment of truth didn't want Boca to see a penny.
Negotiations were carried out by the second president of Argentinos Juniors. That was who I had to deal with. It was the Commissioner Domingo Tesone, who had replaced Próspero Consoli. When we met the first time, he pulled a gun out and left it on the table. I was shocked and nervous. "I hope it doesn't annoy you, it's just it weight a ton..." he apologised.
And there, with the gun on the table, was where I finalsed an agreement for Maradona to come to Barça. An agreement which, at the last moment, when Núñez, Gaspart and Brugueras were already in Argentina, broke down again.
The Barça expedition returned home but, finally, I was able to fix it. The contract was signed in Barcelona and Barça signed Maradona for 1,200 million pesetas (7.2 million euros), a world-record fee at the time.
MAradona... or Demis Roussos?
Maradona played at Camp Nou at the end of 1979 in a friendly with Argentinos Juniors. Nunez saw very little of him because Zuviría performed one of his ferocious marking jobs and ensured he hardly touched the ball. However, there were still glimpses of Maradona's brilliance in that match, which ended goalless.
When talks became more serious, I told Nunez that Argentina were playing a friendly against England at Wembley. I travelled with the president, Casaud and Gaspart to London to watch Maradona and at the hotel we bumped into... the Greek singer Demis Roussos.
Nunez wanted to meet him and I approached him to present ourselves. It was a sensational moment seeing such a great but at the same time strange man with the then Barça president. The game, by the way, was won 3-1 by England. Maradona scored a penalty and Keegan scored two.