Home Football Gary Lineker: ‘Diego was a mixed-up mess, but what a lovely guy’

Gary Lineker: ‘Diego was a mixed-up mess, but what a lovely guy’

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Before Sunday’s clásico, the former Barça striker on Maradona, Messi and why he thought he’d ‘fluked’ it all the way to the top

Gary Lineker never really thought he was much of a footballer until a fortnight in Spain changed everything. The way he tells his story, it happened both suddenly and in slow motion: 34 years on he sees himself watching the ball drop into the net, wondering what was going on. It was the last day of January 1987 and he had just scored his third against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, the first clásico hat-trick in 24 years. Eighteen days later, he got four against Spain at the Bernabéu. “And that,” he says, “is when it dawned on me that I was good at this.”

Hang on a minute. You had just been the first division’s top scorer for the second year running. You had scored in the FA Cup final. You had joined Barcelona for £2.8m. Only one player had cost more and that was Diego Maradona. Oh, and you had won the World Cup Golden Boot. “Yeah,” Lineker says, “but I thought I’d fluked it: I’d got lots of tap-ins.” There is no grin or giggle, no irony nor false modesty. Which is why when it’s suggested that 1986 was the perfect year in football, he replies: “Maybe if you include the first two months of 1987, if we go February to February.”

Continue reading…Before Sunday’s clásico, the former Barça striker on Maradona, Messi and why he thought he’d ‘fluked’ it all the way to the topGary Lineker never really thought he was much of a footballer until a fortnight in Spain changed everything. The way he tells his story, it happened both suddenly and in slow motion: 34 years on he sees himself watching the ball drop into the net, wondering what was going on. It was the last day of January 1987 and he had just scored his third against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, the first clásico hat-trick in 24 years. Eighteen days later, he got four against Spain at the Bernabéu. “And that,” he says, “is when it dawned on me that I was good at this.”Hang on a minute. You had just been the first division’s top scorer for the second year running. You had scored in the FA Cup final. You had joined Barcelona for £2.8m. Only one player had cost more and that was Diego Maradona. Oh, and you had won the World Cup Golden Boot. “Yeah,” Lineker says, “but I thought I’d fluked it: I’d got lots of tap-ins.” There is no grin or giggle, no irony nor false modesty. Which is why when it’s suggested that 1986 was the perfect year in football, he replies: “Maybe if you include the first two months of 1987, if we go February to February.” Continue reading…