Latin America

Maradona family feud keeps Argentineans glued to their TV sets

Ongoing battle between soccer legend and ex-wife is playing out in court and on screen

Carlos E. Cué
Maradona signals to photographers at the stadium during 'La Bombonera' match in Argentina.
Maradona signals to photographers at the stadium during 'La Bombonera' match in Argentina.REUTERS

Ever since Diego Maradona filed a lawsuit against his ex-wife, for allegedly embezzling some €7.5 million of his fortune, Argentineans have been glued to their television sets, watching the accusations fly between the great soccer legend and his family on rival gossip shows.

“He is being brainwashed,” says Giannina, Maradona’s daughter, who, along with her sister Dalma, has been defending their mother, Claudia Villafañe, on TV and via Twitter.

Claudia is a thief. The only ones who wanted me alive were my daughters Gianinna and Dalma” Diego Maradona

In a harsh rebuttal on one recent program, Maradona once again demonstrated his ability to capture headlines, and fuel the drama surrounding his personal life.

“Claudia is a thief,” he said. “The only ones who wanted me alive were Gianinna and Dalma, who supported her sister.”

The former soccer player believes that his family would prefer to see him dead, so that they can cash in on his fortune. The former Barça and Napoli star was reportedly near death in 2004, with doctors at a Buenos Aires hospital forced to put him on a respirator.

His wild lifestyle and subsequent health problems over the years, including a long battle with cocaine addiction, have been closely followed by the media.

“They would say, ‘When this guy kicks the bucket we will have a free ride to Mar del Plata’,” he recently stated on a TV show. “I was worth more dead than alive. I was the true white version of Michael Jackson.”

Claudia Villafañe with her daughters Dalma y Gianinna.
Claudia Villafañe with her daughters Dalma y Gianinna.CORDON PRESS

In another program shown soon afterwards, Dalma went on the counter attack

“The only ones who were in intensive care with him that day were Gianinna, my mother and myself. And I told my father not to die; he needed to fight for his life for me and my sister.”

For the past 30 years, the exploits of the Maradona family have been a popular subject for debate and discussion on Argentinean gossip and news shows.

Before there were only four members of the family, but the clan has since grown with three additional children Maradona fathered with other women: Diego Junior, who lives in Italy and is about to be cut off from his inheritance by his father; Jana, who was born following an affair the soccer player had with a waitress in Mar del Plata, and whom he adores; and Dieguito Fernando, a child he had with his last girlfriend.

A new branch of the family tree came with the birth of Giannini’s son, Benjamín, whose father, Manchester striker Sergio Kun Agüero, has also had his entanglements with Maradona and is estranged from the family.

The scandal over the alleged missing fortune is also being played out in Italy, where in Naples Maradona is venerated as a saint.

Maradona at his father's funeral.
Maradona at his father's funeral.CORDON PRESS

“I want to share my money with my children, except with that prick who lives in Italy. Diego Junior wants me dead but he will not be included in my will. By law, it’s my right to choose who I want [to include] and he’s not getting one cent. At one point I gave him €500,000, back when that little prick was still a kid. I don’t recognize him as my son anymore,” Maradona said.

From Italy, Diego Junior responded: “These are serious things he has said and they are complete lies. Bring me a document that shows I said that I wanted him dead.”

Maradona has been especially tough with his ex-wife and former childhood sweetheart Claudia Villafañe, who stuck by him after they separated in 2003, including during his treatments in Switzerland and Cuba for cocaine addiction.

But now she has found another man, theater producer and actor Jorge Taiana, and this has made Maradona jealous and even more determined to get back his money.

Complicating the matter is an investigation being carried out by Argentinean tax officials into the family’s personal finances.

“I loved Claudia. She was my first love and I will never forget her, but she is no longer the same woman I knew,” said Maradona. “Now she is holding philosophical conversations with that idiot [Taiana] when with me she would talk about soccer.”

Since Claudia has found another man, Maradona has become jealous and even more determined to get his money back

As for his two daughters, the soccer great is aware that they have taken sides with their mother but he said: “I don’t think they will ever realize that their mother never played one soccer match in her life, or signed a contract that was worth more than $300,000.”

Money, jealousy, illegitimate children, inheritances and many hours of television – Argentineans are equally divided over their love-hate relationship with the man who brought them World Cup glory in 1986.

But with those ingredients, Argentineans no longer need to rely on the ever-popular Venezuelan soap operas for their daily dose of drama. With the Maradona family feud, they can count on a fresher script.

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