A lot of players suffered because of the New Maradona tag. They were quality players in their own right but when hyped up before a tournament as the New Maradona, impressionable youngsters like us expected them to be doing all of the stuff Diego Maradona was doing. They all showed glimpses of magic but only one player has come close since, and that is why we will probably have a future list known as the New Messi.
The first player to be labelled as the New Maradona was, appropriately, another Diego. And one with links to Boca Juniors. Diego Latorre. Latorre could play up front or as attacking midfielder. He'd shown some great form for Boca since making his debut as an 18 year old in 1987. When the Copa America tournament came around in 1991, Maradona was unavailable for the Argentinian squad because he'd been suspended from football after failing a drug test in the Italian Serie A. New national team coach Alfio Basile was needing a replacement and Latorre got the nod, he'd struck up a fine partnership at Boca Juniors with another talented youngster, Gabriel Batistuta. Despite Argentina winning the tournament for the first time in 32 years, it was a 'sliding doors' moment for both players. Whilst Batistuta had an incredible run of games, finishing as the tournaments top-scorer, Latorre struggled to make an impact. Legend has it that Latorre had signed for Fiorentina before the tournament, but whilst watching the matches to see how he got on, La Viola's hierarchy suddenly turned their attention to Batistuta and decided he was the player they wanted more than anything. The rest is history, as Batistuta went on to become an absolute legend in Serie A, whilst Latorre ended up at Spanish clubs Tenerife and Salamanca, before returning to Boca Juniors in 1996.
Whilst Diego Latorre is widely believed to have been the first player to be labelled the New Maradona, it was Ariel Ortega who initially carried the real burden of the tag over the course of a number of years. Maradona's failed drug test at the 1994 World Cup had signalled the end of his international career and meant that, for the first time since 1978 when Mario Kempes wore the jersey, La Albiceleste would go into the 1998 World Cup with someone other than Diego Maradona wearing their iconic number 10 shirt. Ortega was the obvious candidate and got the nod. His form at River Plate in the 1990s had been fantastic and had lead to a transfer to Valencia, followed by a big money move to Serie A club Sampdoria, replacing fellow countryman Juan Sebastián Verón who'd made his own big money move to Parma. There was a lot of publicity around Ortega, and even more expectation. He didn't dominate the Argentinians first round matches like Maradona, but he did show glimpses of his undoubted talent and the Argentinians continued to have high hopes as they progressed past England into the quarter finals. It all ended on a sour note though, as Ortega ended up being remembered for his sending-off against the Netherlands as he head-butted Edwin van der Sar, rather than any glorious footballing moment. If the Argentinian F.A. had their way, then Ortega would have been the last player to wear it as well, as they tried to retire the shirt in honour of Maradona before the 2002 World Cup, but FIFA banned them from doing so.
A classic number 10, who had similarities to Maradona off the pitch, as well as on it, Juan Román Riquelme always going to be labelled as a New Maradona. Born into a poor family on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, his early career followed a similar path to Maradona's - starting out in the youth team of Argentinos Juniors before signing for Boca Juniors. And then, remarkably, 20 years after Maradona had moved from Boca Juniors to Barcelona, Juan Román Riquelme made exactly the same move, swapping La Bombonera for the Camp Nou in 2002. His skills were now expected to be appreciated by a wider audience, but as with Diego's move back in 1982, things didn’t work out as planned, and Juan Román Riquelme would have to leave Barcelona before he hit top form on European soil. Whilst Diego would leave Spain and head to Napoli in Italy, Juan Román Riquelme would stay in Spain, joining Villarreal on a two-year loand deal before making the move permanent. Like Maradona, he would eventually end up back at Boca Juniors, yet whilst Maradona's would be a fleeting couple of seasons at the very of his career, Juan Román Riquelme would make his return whilst he was still in his prime, aged 29, and continue to weave his magic for seven more years before ending his career back where he'd started as a youth player, at Argentinos Juniors.