John Ludden was born and raised in Moston, Manchester. He is a freelance journalist and was originally inspired to write by the likes of the great Hugh McIlvanney. He has gone on to write several acclaimed books on the game including A Tale of Two Cities: Manchester Madrid 57-68, and   'Once Upon a Time In Naples' about Diego Maradona's time in Italy. Soon to be the basis for a forthcoming  documentary by  SENNA director Asif Kapadia and Playmaker films.  John’s work has been translated into several languages.  Inspired by 'The Damned United', 'From The Stars' is John's first major fictional work although it is based on the historical facts of Manchester United between May 1968 and April 1974.








                 @JOHNLUDDS  (Twitter)






                ONCE UPON A TIME IN NAPLES

On 5th July 1984, Diego Armando Maradona arrived in
Naples by helicopter, and for seven years all hell let loose
in the Italian South. For so long the ailing giant that was
SSC Napoli had criminally underachieved.

Their fanatical support unequalled in both passion and size
across Italy. None was more feared or hated. And how
they ached for success. A history dramatic, explosive and
tragic. Like the finest Italian operas.
Then came Maradona

Blessed with a ball at his feet on the field, cursed off it,
the charismatic Argentine led Napoli to their first ever
Title. It was the stuff of dreams. He was unplayable,
then came the dark side.

Maradona mixed openly with the city gangsters, Lo
Camorra. He could do as he pleased whilst performing
miracles on the pitch,
but when the magic faded?

Once upon a time in Naples attempts to chronicle those
unforgettable times under Mount Vesuvius’ shadow.
When Diego left his inestimable mark on this Babylon by
the sea. An alluring tale of wonderful football, of glory,
despair and betrayal. Of corruption, gangsters and

In a city where the devil would have needed bodyguards,
Maradona became bigger than God himself.
A perfect storm:

Welcome to Naples!

The story so far:
Since its original 2005 release Once upon a time in Naples
has taken on a remarkable life of its own. Re-published in
Spanish and Italian (and so nearly Arabic.) And the
subject of much heated debate both online and off. Like
Diego Maradona himself, it has divided opinions. No
middle ground, it has always been loved or loathed and
never ignored. But it is still standing and has finally
arrived in an updated and revised edition.

I have received so many emails off people reading this
book in far off places. When you live in Chadderton,
everywhere seems far off. The departure lounge of LA
Airport. From a beach in Thailand. An African doctor
engrossed whilst saving lives and working for the United
Nations in the Congo. Also a Palestinian police officer
who read the book in snatches whilst in the midst of Israeli
Gunship attacks.

And so many more.

Then in 2011, when I finally thought it had died a slow,
lingering, literary death, an email one Saturday night
ignited an entirely new scenario. Paul Martin of EP
productions contacted me with the idea of a documentary
based on the book.

Paul had me at ‘Scarface in football boots!’ So began the
crazy and at times eerily world of all things Maradona. We
have met and talked to characters not far removed from a
Godfather movie.

Recently the stakes have upped dramatically with the
brilliant award winning SENNA director Asif Kapadia and
Playmaker Films expressing an interest to be involved.
Now as 2014 draws in all bets are off, and Once upon a
time in Naples looks set to surprise even more. Just like
it refuses to go away.


                           1978: A NOVEL

In 1978 to the astonishment of Amnesty

International and other Human Rights

organizations, the Eleventh World Cup was

staged in Argentina. A ruthless military

dictatorship led by President Jorge Videla

brutalized, tortured and murdered thousands

of their own people to stay in power.

Under the guise of the Beautiful Game this

cesspit of Generals would attempt to achieve

respectability in the World’s eye. But for this to

succeed victory had to be forthcoming. At any


And so they decided to fix it

1978 tells the story of a young Scottish

journalist Paul Mackenzie who travels to

Argentina utterly oblivious to what is really

going on. He is interested only in the football,

beer and women. A meeting with Argentine

journalist Sebastian Gomez and his sister

Maria, who Mackenzie falls in love with, opens

his eyes to the vicious reality of the Mundial.

In time Mackenzie, along with Sebastian

Gomez and wizened old Scottish hack Hugh

Morley, find themselves involved in the biggest

sporting fix in history - the Argentina-Peru

match when the host nation needed four goals

to ensure qualification for the final at Brazil’s


It is one involving a frightening host of

characters. Some famous such as Henry

Kissinger, others simply infamous as the CIA,

Argentine and Peruvian governments and a

Colombian drug cartel, all conspire together

for their own means. Anyone deemed a danger

to it failing risked paying the ultimate price.

And it is the journalists who are caught in the

storm's eye - with bitter and tragic


The French Poet Charles Baudelaire once

claimed ‘The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

was convincing the world he didn't exist.’ Well

for a period during the seventies he did exist.

And he had pitched his tent in Argentina.

                    TEARS OF A MERMAID



On September 23rd 1973, five fishermen off

Ireland’s west coast allegedly caught a

mermaid in their nets. And here is the moment

when you stop reading. I would not blame

you. Except I was there, I was one of them.

And I swear the following tale is true.


What happened that night, forty years ago

unleashed a power and vengeance beyond

human comprehension. As we voted whether

to keep or throw her back, she shed a tear,

closed her eyes and passed away.

For our heinous sin against the sea we paid an

unholy price. Terrible losses and tragedy befell

us all. A poison sea and broken hearts. It was

many years before redemption shown itself. I

remember it well. 

Like it was yesterday.

The Christmas of 1983 and Van Morrison was

singing about a ‘Moondance’ on the jukebox.

For some it was already too late by then, but

for those of us whom were spared?

Well this is our story.

My name is Tom Rogan and I believe in


Tom Rogan:

                 Drunnamere 12/12/2013






 This is the tale of two cities divided by football and united

by tragedy. The story begins in emnity when United's

Busby Babes face Santiago Bernebeu's Galacticos in the

1957 European Cup semi-final. United were a team made

up of hand-reared British and Irish youngsters who had

conquered British football with relative ease. They faced

Madrid's reigning European Champions led by 'The Blond

Arrow' Alfredo di Stefano. Inevitably United lost that tie

over two legs but the pair seemed certain to be rivals for

years before the Munich Air Disaster ripped apart

Manchester's pride and joy.


In the years that followed

Real Madrid's president moved heaven and earth to help

his club's former foes and a series of friendly matches

were played to help United's languishing coffers as Real

completed their now legendary 5 European Cup victories

in a row from the inception of the tournament. Following

the Mancunian side's recovery and rehabilitation, the clubs

met once more and this time it was for real. United's aging

side battled through to the 1968 European Cup semi-final

to face the Madrilenos once more.


Madrid, by now six

times winners, looked certain to go through when they

raced into a 3-2 aggregate lead in Spain before David

Sadler and Munich survivor Bill Foulkes scored late goals

to send United through to a date with destiny against

Benfica in the Wembley final. This riveting footballing

story featuring most of the greatest players of the fifties

and sixties but most importantly two great rivals and

friends: Madrid President Santiago Bernabeu and United

manager Matt Busby.





(Original version 2005)



Arriving like an angel descending from heaven, Diego
Armando Maradona made his dramatic entrance in Naples
by helicopter flying into a packed Sao Paolo stadium,
where 60,000 Neapolitans had gathered to welcome the
greatest footballer of all time into their midst.
Before Maradona there had been nothing, just a sad
history of underachievement. Many times SSC Napoli had
promised much, only to fall at the last, beaten by the
northern powers of Milan and Turin. Strange tales had
greeted every setback and conspiracy theories raged. It
was whispered that Napoli would never be allowed to win
the Italian Serie A.
Well, nobody bothered to inform Maradona! For seven
years he ignited Neapolitan passions and, on an
unforgettable Naples May afternoon in 1987, he led them
to the title. Across the city, fevered celebrations erupted...
but dark clouds loomed, for theirs was a King with a
crown of thorns.
With every wish there came a curse and Maradona’s
crazed off-field lifestyle meant it almost inevitable that the
story would end in tears. In the bars and clubs of
downtown Naples, where his night-time antics became the
stuff of legend, Maradona mixed with members of the
murderous Neapolitan Mafia, the Camorra. The gangs
embraced the Argentinian as one of their own, only to spit
him out with venom when it all went sour.
Once Upon A Time In Naples attempts to piece together
the events of a dramatic period in this troubled city’s
history, where, albeit for a short time only, SSC Napoli
ruled the roost. In a place where the devil would have
needed a bodyguard, a kid born in a Buenos Aires slum
brought heaven on earth to a people who lived only for
their football team. With a ball at his feet Maradona could
dance between the raindrops. It was a time like no other.
                             Welcome to Naples!






Oh no! Not another book about Diego Maradona, this

time about the seven incident-packed years he spent at

Naples, during which he led them to the Serie A title? Ho,

hum, you might think, as I did before embarking on the

first chapter, but I was soon engrossed. John Ludden has

created that rarity among the sporting genre: a genuine

page-turner which rates among the best sports books I've

read all year.

The book maintains a cracking pace throughout, with

Ludden frequently infusing his tale with religious

imagery, a constant, if unsubtle, reminder of the

diminutive midfielder's status among his newly-

discovered Neapolitan family. From the moment he

arrives in Naples by helicopter "like an angel descending

from heaven", Maradona came as close to a footballing

deity as any player ever has. Lovingly embraced at first

by all quarters of a city "where the devil would have

needed a bodyguard", once he casts out a pregnant

Cristina Sinagra, the locals begin to cast doubt on his true

character and his previously divine mask begins to slip.

But this is not an elongated tabloid romp. From the outset,

Ludden builds tension and excitement into each facet of

Maradona's complicated Neapolitan foray, including

Napoli's unlikely surge for the Scudetto, the Italian title.

In the early 1980s, Napoli's president of fourteen years,

Corrado Ferlaino, was under enormous pressure to inject

style, a presence, into his club which would finally allow

it to challenge Italian football's northern dominance. The

author's description of Naples as a dirty, poor, corrupt,

grudge-bearing metropolis where gangsters have ultimate

control has presumably not been sanctioned by the city's

tourist board. Yet this background is important to

Ludden's tale as it was, he suggests, crucial in convincing

Maradona, who hailed from a similar background, to

leave the sophistication of Barcelona for the toe of Italy.

Barcelona had bought the Argentine for $7.3m, but his

antics and cocaine-fuelled sessions with Spanish

prostitutes hastened his departure from the Nou Camp.

The enjoyable story of Maradona's transfer reads like a

 fifteenth century dispute between Europe's city states. A

fee of $13m had been agreed between the two clubs when

Barcelona's president issued a further decree to one of his

emissaries, telling him "to make Naples bleed" by asking

for a further $600,000. Ferlaino didn't have the cash: the

money was collected from Naples' grateful poor in a day.

Maradona was understandably keen to move to Italy. The

$3m he earned at Barcelona had disappeared thanks to

his extravagant lifestyle, gambling, drugs and several

ridiculous commercial ventures. Signing for Naples

guaranteed him a $6m signing-on fee, although

throughout his stay, he was "a puppet dangling on a

gangster's string."

While at Napoli, Maradona played perhaps the most

outstanding football of his blighted career, but a diet of

unremitting debauchery is not recommended for a

professional athlete. The drugs sustained Maradona for as

long as he could 'do the business' on the pitch; urine

samples were changed or officials were 'advised' by solid-

looking men in long overcoats that Maradona should not

be selected for post-match drugs testing.

The end came when Naples' powerbrokers had had

enough. Recognising that the club could save two years'

astronomic wages, in 1991, Maradona was 'allowed' to

finally fail a drugs test which resulted in his immediate

suspension. The game was up; he was no more than "a

lousy cokehead" and he knew it.

Ludden underpins the lurid tales with a magnificent (and

plausible) conspiracy theory, one which, no doubt,

contributed to the book's title, a take on Sergio Leone's

1984 film, One Upon A Time In America. On this

occasion, however, the mobsters win.

  FIELDS OF FIRE  (The Greatest Football Matches Ever)

"Fields of Fire" kicks off in war-torn Ukraine in 1942,
telling the tale of a Dynamo Kiev side forced into a series
of propaganda matches against their Nazi occupiers. They
are ordered to lose but repeatedly hammer the Germans
and are finally forced to pay a tragic forfeit - their lives.
This terrible but factual tale is the first of many landmark
games examined in John Ludden's collection of milestone
matches in football history. The tales are laced with
wonderful characters - some good, some bad, some
downright scandalous: the cherry-red shirts of Hungary
romping through the 1950s; a tubby little genius called
Puskas; Di Stefano and his wizards from Madrid; Busby
and his tragic, but brilliant babes; and the villainous
Argentine Rattin at Wembley. Moving into the 1970s,
Ludden examines Pele and his glorious team exploding in
Technicolor; German glory in 1974; Argentine
skulduggery in 1978; in the 1980s we revisit the France-
Germany World Cup semi-final and the infamous arrival
of Diego Armando Maradona. Onto the 1990s and Gazza's
famous tears in Turin and the tragic shooting of
Columbian Escobar. 
                      LOS PARTIDOS DEL SIGLO 
                   (Spanish version of Fields of Fire)


T & B editors have edited a wonderful work of art in
which are collected some of the best games of the century.

There are games that fill pages of history, they do mourn,
laugh and who stay in our memories forever. Some have
been lucky enough to experience them, others have heard
about them but both the former and the latter for sure they
had no details, those aspects that make history a living
legend of the sport.

That is why T & B editors has now released a great and
complete work called " The parties of the century ", in
which he makes a wonderful tour of some of the games
that have come to Olympus, either by heroic victories and
dramatic or by actions of the big stars that were embedded
in them.

Men from the likes of Maradona, Puskas, Pele, Di Stefano
or Bubsy appear in this work of T & B editors in leftover
deeds and remembrance parties glorious collected from
the Barça-Madrid from 1960 to meetings between teams
from the likes of Italy-Brazil, 1982, 1968 Argentina-
England-Italy or Argentina 1990.

Maybe some of the games we see in this World Cup in
South Africa has the honor someday appear in a book of
the size of the " century parties , "a play that begins with
the story of an encounter that never knew if never held
but realata an incredible story of overcoming and courage
in the time of Nazi Germany.

Explain the play written by John Ludden that back in
1942 Nazi soldiers forced the Dynamo Kiev players who
were retained to participate in a friendly soccer match
under the following slogan: " If you win, you die . " That
is, to preserve life Ukrainian footballers should be outdone
by the Nazis so that they could boast of the Aryan race.
However, despite physical weakness in which they were,
decided to fight these players to win a game that,
ultimately, their lives would end .

Reality or not, there's no better way to open a book
majestic , worth reading and consulting up bored and can
be purchased online and at a modest price .
A law unto himself and a god to millions of football
supporters across the world. Maradona's European
adventures took in two seasons at Barcelona, seven in
Naples and one in Seville.
               (Maradona's Adventure In Europe)

  A law unto himself and a god to millions of football
supporters across the world. Maradona's European
adventures took in two seasons at Barcelona, seven in
Naples and one in Seville.
All three crammed enough drama, controversy, intrigue
and moments of footballing genius to fulfil a lifetime of
memories. He was no angel or saint, but then neither was
he a demon. Simply the greatest footballer ever to play the
At Barcelona Maradona was cut down by serious injuries
and illness, only occasionally did the god given talent
shine through. But when it did! Sadly it was not to be long
term, just a constant two year battle against a President
and Catalan attitudes that viewed him merely as a street
kid punk whom got lucky with a gift. 

Hardly a marriage in heaven but a torrid love affair that at
times reached the stars but fell far too often down to earth.

Then came Naples! The treasure of San Gennaro,
Neapolitans worshipped this Argentine wonder boy who
arrived like an angel from the sky in a helicopter at the
San Paolo and for seven glorious though hugely
controversial years made all their wildest dreams real.

A king with a crown of thorns whose night time antics
were sufficient to make even the Borgias blush. But when
in the light blue of Napoli Maradona made the ball sing.
Encore. In Naples despite a horrific finale they would love
him forever more.

Seville: a tragic epitaph as the realisation finally dawned
on Diego Maradona that despite being told since the age
of ten that he was a god, he was in fact human after all.
That no one lived forever. Fighting constantly a cocaine
addiction that ticked away like a time bomb to finish him
off Maradona's European adventures ended in misery and
acrimony in the gypsy city.

But what a journey! An outrageous but unforgettable tale
of football, gangsters, drugs, corruption, booze, women
and without doubt the greatest player the world has ever

Loved and loathed, adored and hated, but there was only
ever one Diego Armando Maradona.





          (Italian version of Once upon a time in Naples)

  History or record, press report or narrative text, the work
of John Ludden guides us along the parabola, or semi-
serious semicomica, perhaps better semitragica of Diego
Armando Maradona in Naples, after her arrival, she saw
him hailed as a ...hero, savior of an entire city, up to the
final debacle, inglorious and painful. As always sore point
is the city of Naples, loved and hated vehemently, almost
calmed only by the vicissitudes of his football team. An
ancient metropolis, full of old evils and deep scars,
oppressed by fate which sometimes takes the form of a
devastating earthquake or a violent eruption of Vesuvius
or creeps in the dark alleys where good people, honest
Neapolitans have to live, for too long, with a Camorra
increasingly ruthless, able to pollute everything and throw
shadows dire also on the parable of Maradona, the only
one who has been able to do but to aspire to the
Neapolitans! AUTHOR John Ludden , well-known
journalist and sports writer, was born in Manchester,
where he lives with his wife Christine and little Matthew,
as he diehard fans of Manchester United and Napoli. He is
the author of numerous books on football, of which the
first Fields of Fire: The Greatest Football Matches ever is
2001. In 2005, he appeared in English in this volume, with
the title of Once upon a Time in Naples , recently
published in Spanish, for the types of T & B Editors, under
the title La Aventura de Maradona en Europe . The latter
will soon be seen in England a rewrite in the form of
documentary, TRANSLATION curated by Maria Rosaria
Bucci Cocco.