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on 30 November 2005
This is a very well written book and one which i enjoyed hugely. Although i feel its appeal may well be limited to us the Diego fanatics, the author manages to produce a real page turner. Once upon a time in Naples reads like a cross between a footballing classic and the Godfather. The best book i have read this year.
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on 22 February 2011
It is hard to believe that a book about Diego Maradona's time playing Napoli in Serie A could be anything other than riveting. Unfortunately John Ludden's book isn't the classic that the story deserves.

To give him credit he doesn't leave anything out. We read about both Napoli's history of underachievement up to the 1980's, of Maradona's emergence as a superstar in Argentina and his disappointing time at Barcelona, his first European club. We hear of the fervour of the Napoli tifosi and how they viewed Maradona's arrival, as the clubs chance to finally emerge from the dominance of the hated giant clubs from Turin and Milan. The north-south divide in Italy was and is played out through football, with the southerners hoping that, for once, Maradona, would give them the upper hand in a contest with the North.

Each season is described in detail, particularly the crucial matches. Maradona's notorious socialising is sketched as well as his connections to the Neapolitan mafia - The Comorra.

However I thought Ludden's style of writing takes away somewhat from the reader's enjoyment. I found it overly descriptive and slightly repetitive. For every match between one of the big Northern clubs and Napoli he feels the need to describe in great detail the hatred between them.
His use of imagery was also too flowery for me. An example -"Bianchi readied himself for yet another helter-skelter ride aboard the Neapolitan roller coaster, aka SS Napoli. As ever there would be no seatbelt or parachute. Instead he would ride in the lap of the Gods"

The story itself is fascinating, however. Maradona's off pitch behaviour seems to have been incredible, making his on-field feats even more remarkable, as he leads Napoli to two Scudettos and a UEFA Cup. His fractious relationship with coach Ottavio Bianchi is described and the brilliance of his teammates such as Careca, Alemao and Giordano are recalled. There is no denying the joy that the clubs success brought to the fans and the city. The chapter dealing with the events leading up to Maradona's departure is unusually restrained and informative.

I was also disappointed that there are no photographs in the book. This may seem like a petty complaint but I think well-chosen photographs can add greatly to the reader's enjoyment of a non-fiction book. There must have been an endless supply of both on and off field photographs from that time.

Ludden's book is a decent effort but not as good as it could have been.
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on 4 August 2005
The subject of Diego Maradona's time with Napoli has been touched on many times in books that i have read, but none have impressed me like Once Upon a time in Naples. The author's enthusiasm and love for the subject shines though in every line. A writing style which at times threatened to explode carries the reader along breathlessly. A hugely enjoyable book. An amazing story well told.
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on 16 August 2005
I have waited fifteen years for a book like this. Diego Maradona gave me the best years of my life and once upon a time in Naples brings so many memories flooding back. Salut and viva Diego!
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on 1 August 2005
Diego Maradona's turbulent seven years in Naples is perhaps the last, greatest, football story yet to be told in print. That Ludden delivers, albeit, only just is credit to him and his writing style. Maradona's time in Naples needs to be told from an insider's point of view. This the author is clearly not, yet still he manages to capture the magic, and tragedy of those amazing days under the volcano. I recommend Once upon a time in Naples most highly. This is a story that deserves to be read by all football fans.
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on 17 October 2013
It's a good book, but irritatingly badly written at times. The best chapters are about the history making first scudetto in 1986-7. There is too much about the North/South divide, and the author has listened to too many biased Napoli fans. But altogether, a good read, and informative about a great period,
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on 28 November 2008
A brilliant book about my favourite all time player and Italian side. The author captures perfectly the atmosphere of Naples. I would recommend anybody who loves football to buy this book. It sits alongside my fav all time footie read Pete Davies's 'All Played out'. Both are classics.
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on 17 June 2014
Fantastic book what a legend maradona turned a team and city of nobody's into champions twice with cup wins in Europe and Italy aswell some amazing stories great read
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on 17 November 2005
I couldn't believe there was enought people interested in Maradona and Napoli as me for this to be so widely available so naturally I couldn't wait to read this and learn more of El Diego having already read Jimmy Burns biography and the recently released English version of El Diego. As people have said the enthusiasm shines through which is good however it quickly becomes annoying, read how many times the cliche 'crown of thorns' appears and see what I mean. Although always interesting and to a hardcore fan dare I say unmissable it does amaze you some of the errors, for example Argentina do not play in hoops (apart from the Rugby Union Team) and not even getting the correct year for the Heysel disaster! These errors start to make wonder just what exactly is correct as the book progresses. Also the mistakes on the Italian and Spanish words are evident to those even with the most basic grasp of either language.
I don't feel good poking mistakes at someones work when its clearly been a labour of love and you naturally feel a bit of jealousy that a fellow fan has produced this whilst you are stuck on a bus in gateshead whilst it's lashing down outside. However any serious fan of Diego and the Argentinian game in general will feel a bit deflated by the book, but will want to finish it none the less. I bought this at the same time as Shane Warnes book and sadly this was the weaker of the two.
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on 19 February 2008
This is, without exception, the worst book I have ever read. There is absolutely no insight whatsoever into either of the two subjects Ludden chose to write about; the details of Maradonna's life, such as his estranegment from childhood friend and manager which is covered in one page with no actual information regarding the financial irregularities that led to the split, are worse than vague and the rivalry with the North that supposedly drives Neapolitan passions for their club is pitiful, with a brief nod to the club's formation taking the place of any social or historical background to support Ludden's constant harping about Southern antagonism toward the North. Both Maradonna's life and the history and society of Naples are appalingly researched, if at all. The salient details such as match results or Napoli's fortunes during the Maradonna era could just as easily be found on wikipedia and without the unsupported assertions of Ludden as his inept and leaden turns of phrase. Not only is his writing style an embarassment to the rules of the English language but his proof-reader was either distracted with other business or failed to graduate high school. Commas are dotted around seemingly at random, semi-colons are either entirely absent or replaced by, surprise surprise, a comma, and the only time a colon makes an appearance is when Ludden for some reason or other begins a new paragraph with a summation heading that is only separated from the following sentence by this ill-judged token gesture at employing basic English grammar. Slightly less forgiveable but even more irritating is Ludden's constant use of exclamation points. Like an over-excited pre-schooler he supplants concise and convincing arguments with an exclamation point in order to convince the reader of a particular event's importance. In both content and presentation then, this book is an absolute disgrace and a fifteen year-old with access to wikipedia and an infant's grasp of grammar could have produced a more fitting tribute to a marvellous footballer and my own favourite city.

Oh, and my personal favourite line of the book? "Come the 1997-98 season it turned critical as each week they were beaten almost on a weekly basis." Just one of many.
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