From a cesspit to the top of the world, with a little helping hand from God himself; the tale of Diego Armando Maradona is the World Cup's most striking narrative.
And that doesn't take into account the crashing fall on the other side of Mount Olympus, eventually ending in banishment from the competition many believe he had once won single-handedly. We now await a further post-script as Maradona puts his neck on the line to coach his country in South Africa, with few able to predict anything but chaos and a rich vein of column inches.
But that is still to come. The legend of Maradona lies in his playing days where an unimpeachable control of a football, squat but hugely powerful physique and the ability to grab a game - and indeed a tournament - by the scruff of the neck made him as powerful a force as has played football. Maradona v Pele will remain a perennially unanswered question yet Maradona's influence on his generation was just as strong as that of the Brazilian.
Mexico '86 is the tournament for which he shall remain ever linked with but it came after two false starts. When Argentina lifted the world title on home soil in 1978, one of their 17-year-old countryman was perhaps a little miffed. By then, Maradona was already a star in his country, having made his international debut at just 16, on February 27, 1977 against Hungary. Yet coach Cesar Luis Menotti, he of the flowing mane and permanent cigarette on the go, decided that choosing the prodigy as one of his 22-man-squad was too great a risk; by then that huge personality was already in evidence. Maradona's disappointment was soon forgotten as Menotti's team achieved victory amid famed scenes of tickertape celebrations.
Four years later in Spain, it was unavoidable; Maradona, still just 21, was his country's main man, even allowing for the presence of many of the stars of 1978. The likes of Mario Kempes, Daniel Passarella and Osvaldo Ardiles saw their fortunes ebb and flow with the moods and application of their young leader. Not only that, but their nation was suffering the rigours of the Falkland Wars. Indeed, Argentina's military junta surrendered the day after an opening footballing defeat at the hands of Belgium.
Maradona soon delivered a two-goal virtuoso display against Hungary but in the second round the pressure proved too great. The round-robin stage saw him man-marked by the ogrish Claudio Gentile as Italy beat the holders in Maradona's new home city of Barcelona. Against Brazil, who had brushed aside their rivals with ease while continuing the Gentile treatment on Maradona, the young star exploded with five minutes to play and exit all but secured. An unforgivable hack on Joao Batista ended his tournament in disgrace.
Four years later, by now the king of Napoli after ending his unhappiness at the Camp Nou, Mexico would provide "El Diego" with the chance of a redemption he has always believed in since, as a child he was rescued from drowning in the family cesspit by his uncle Cirilo. Being pulled from what can only be termed as the s***, has served as an idiom for his life ever since, as confirmed by one of his many therapists.
Once the tournament got in its stride, Mexico '86 was dominated by one little man with a mission. That is the deserved legend, though Maradona was ably supported by some admirable lieutenants, most notably in forwards Jorge Valdano and Pedro Pasculli, goalkeeper Nery Pumpido, commanding defender Jose Luis Brown and young midfielders Ricardo Giusti and Jorge Burruchaga.
The kingpin's goals started with an opportunistic strike against holders Italy in Argentina's second match, but the prime cuts came in the knock-out stages. The quarter-final of 1986 both made and sullied his name. England, in Maradona's own mind representative of the horrors of the Falklands, were the opponents. By splendid hook and infamous crook he gained personal and national revenge, first by dint of that infamous handball and then by a goal that is still seen as the greatest of all. Trailing England defenders in his wake and eventually rounding Peter Shilton, Maradona tore the heart from the English.
He would do the same to the Belgians in the semi-final - twice. In the final, just when the West Germans had come back from two goals down, it was Maradona who jammied open the door. Lothar Matthaeus had stuck to him like a limpet throughout but eventually Maradona found the space he needed to supply Burruchaga with the winner. "Argentina, Argentina, campeon," sang the captain as he celebrated in the dressing room, his place in the pantheon now secured.
From that height could only come a descent. By Italia '90 he was addicted to cocaine, and ravaged by knee and ankle injuries gained from years of playing through knocks and being targeted for the assault of the 1980s continental defender. Yet somehow, leading a team in which only Claudio Cannigia looked anything approaching the quality of the previous crop, Maradona found himself in the final. Mostly simulating and moaning his way through matches, he could still show flashes of unmatchable genius; Cannigia was the recipient of the killer ball to end the challenge of Brazil in the second round.
In the semi-final, in the Naples stadium where he had led Napoli to Serie A and UEFA Cup glory, he came up against the hosts. The Neapolitan public were urged to support their hero - by their hero - and it was a rather more muted home support that Argentina needed to overcome. The Azzurri wilted under the pressure, pegged back by a Cannigia goal to take it extra time and penalties. There, Maradona, unworried by missing a penalty in the previous round against the Yugoslavians, supplied the felling blow by scoring the decisive penalty.
Rome - far less well disposed to him and his team - and the final were to be a sorry experience. Neither the Germans nor Argentina came out of it with much credit, with German play-acting matched by Argentine brutality. Both Pedro Monzon and Gustavo Dezotti were sent off in disgrace while Maradona's own behaviour was ill-tempered at best. An Andreas Brehme penalty was all the game deserved and Maradona ended the night in a flood of tears, to the sympathy of a low proportion of a worldwide TV audience.
There was to be a further coda to that crashing low. The years before the next finals saw a further slide into decline. By 1994 he was back playing in Argentina as his club career petered out and his weight ballooned. But when his country came calling as they struggled to qualify for the finals in the USA, he made himself available for the task, slimming down significantly and, as it turned out, suspiciously.
The tournament proper began with Maradona looking back to his best, minus the lung-bursting dribbles. Greece were destroyed 4-0, Maradona rattling in the fourth and celebrating maniacally into a TV camera. Fancied Nigeria were despatched in the next game with their captain pulling the strings in vintage style. Could he do it again? Two days later, we knew the answer. Maradona failed a dope test for synthetic stimulant ephedrine. Despite his protests, and he has proferred many a conspiracy theory in the years since, he was forced to watch as his rudderless team-mates exited the tournament in the second round.
However, even ending his time as a World Cup player in such disgrace cannot dim the light on his achievements on the greatest stage. And now he is back to write another chapter.