Jorge Burruchaga: “Maradona made us believe that he was immortal” | America’s Soccer Cup 2021

Jorge Burruchaga, during a match of the Copa Libertadores.
Jorge Burruchaga, during a match of the Copa Libertadores.Marcelo Hernandez / LatinContent via Getty Images

Champion in Mexico 86, finalist in Italy 90, Jorge Burruchaga (Entre Ríos, Argentina; 58 years old) was one of the great partners of Diego Armando Maradona in the Argentine team. He, precisely, scored the decisive goal in the final against Germany at the Azteca Stadium. The assistance? Maradona. Coordinator of the national teams of the Albiceleste in Russia 2018, Burruchaga accompanies his son Román (tennis player, 845 in the ATP ranking) around Europe, while he recharges the batteries to lead again. He had Bilardo and Menotti. You don’t want to know anything about labels. “Bilardo was the best coach I had, but the coaches want their teams to play like them. And I like teams that understand the game. The collective is always above the individual ”, explains the former Independiente coach.

Question. How has your last year been?

Answer. I’ve been through a bit of everything. Sad, because of what is happening in Argentina and in the world. But regarding football, Mexico will be 35 years old: there is still that nostalgia in people. It is not melancholy. It is an immense place, that makes you feel proud and that is often a pampering in the soul. It makes you think: “I did something, we did something.” And all that has transcended more with the unfortunate disappearance of Diego.

P. How did you experience Maradona’s death?

R. Diego had accustomed us to the fact that he could also dribble to death. He had led us to believe that he was immortal. And this seemed a little minor compared to everything that had happened to him. The most painful thing is when you find out how everything was. He didn’t deserve to die that way. But, at some point, God took pity on us and Diego told him: “Come with me and your old men.” It wasn’t a good life he was leading. He had had his problems and each one manages his life as best he can. Being Maradona from the age of 15 does not have to have been easy at all.

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P. And being Burruchaga next to Maradona on a soccer field?

R. Without a doubt, very easy. This Tuesday, on the anniversary of the goal against the English, the best goal in the history of the World Cup, I remembered that play a lot.

P. How was it from your perspective?

R. I ran parallel to him the entire play. At one point, he winks at me that he was going to pass it to me. But he hooked again. Better not have happened to me. If the first goal was illegal [en referencia a la mano de Dios], the second was worth three or four. Above all, because of the rival, because of the context and because the field was disastrous. Do you know how difficult it was to get the ball there?

P. Are the players complaining about the grass today?

R. Today the fields are very good, we played in vacant lots. But it is normal, today they are used to something else. The first resort is always the excuse, but then you realize that you have to play where you are.

P. Why can’t Argentina lift a title from 93?

R. Bilardo taught us that if there is a tournament in which you cannot fail, it is in a World Cup. And the reason is because you have to wait four years to play it again. Obviously, the one with better individualities, the one who plays better and the one who makes the fewest mistakes, has more opportunities. But there are other arguments as well. We, in Italia 90, were a disaster and we reached the final. Argentina once again had the opportunity to win a World Cup and it was not given. It is working very well. Good players keep coming out. The best example is that after Diego we thought we were not going to see another huge footballer again and Messi appeared.

Burruchaga scores the winning goal for Argentina against German goalkeeper Schummer, in the World Cup final in Mexico.
Burruchaga scores the winning goal for Argentina against German goalkeeper Schummer, in the World Cup final in Mexico.France Press

P. Is Messi more liberated?

R. I notice it calmer. But yeah, maybe the word will be released. Many of his litter have stepped aside and now he has to act as a leader. He always had great eggs.

P. Why?

R. Because despite everything, he continues to go to the national team. He does anything to earn something. And maybe, when you least expect it, you get it. It would be a great reward for his career.

P. Did Messi miss a Burruchaga?

R. In some way, Diego and Messi are different. Maradona was an all-rounder and Messi has always played three-quarters of the court forward. He had two great partners in Agüero and Di María. And today he has midfielders who can make him play very well like Lo Celso, Paredes and De Paul. Argentina has found good flyers. They can help you a lot.

P. But Scaloni does not finish finding the team.

R. I don’t believe in finding the equipment. If there is one place that allows you to change, it is the selection. And it can be done for different reasons: because of the level of the players, because of fatigue, because of tactical issues … A good job is being done and new players have appeared. Argentina can strike at any time.

P. To Brazil too?

R. Brazil is fine. It has great players, who are in the best leagues in Europe. But he has yet to meet Argentina. We’ll see.