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Why have Napoli been banned from producing shirts bearing Diego Maradona’s image?

A court order issued in Naples prevents Maradona’s former agent, with whom the club had sealed an agreement, from using el Pibe de Oro’s image rights.

Napoli banned from producing shirts bearing Diego Maradona’s image

Diego Armando Maradona’s face will not feature on the shirts of the side he famously led to two Serie A titles after a judge in Naples ruled against the Argentina great’s former agent in a legal wrangle over the Pibe de Oro’s image rights. Magistrate Paolo Andrea Vassallo has denied Maradona’s former representative, Stefano Ceci, “any new use of the image of Diego Armando Maradona” while also approving a request from Maradona’s heirs to impose a retention order on all Ceci’s assets up to an amount of €150,000.

The judge’s precautionary measure thusly blocks both Ceci and Maradona’s former side Napoli, who had acquired the rights to the use of the Argentinean’s image through the agent, any further use of the legendary number 10′s image, despite his deep connection with the club - the club’s stadium was renamed the Diego Armando Maradona after his death in November 2020.

The case reached the courts due to damages claimed by Maradona’s heirs over the production of Napoli club shirts that featured a picture of the Cosmic Barrel. Napoli, according to a report by La Repubblica, produced and sold 6,000 copies of the short at a price of €150 each, reaping a gross profit of €900,000. Ceci, however, had apparently ceded the rights to Maradona’s shirts to the heirs to his estate for €22,500.

Napoli's players at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Naples.
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Napoli's players at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Naples. FILIPPO MONTEFORTEAFP

Maradona’s heirs entitled to 50% of image rights

The judge considered that such a price disparity represented serious damage to the financial expectations of Maradona’s heirs, particularly taking into account the contract signed by Maradona himself. The agreement, signed on 17 August, 2020, guarantees his heirs 50% of the profits from any commercial initiatives bearing the image of the World Cup-winner. According to the judge’s ruling Ceci’s conduct “is even more serious bearing in mind that, long before the agreement with SSC Napoli, [Maradona’s] heirs had petitioned Ceci not to use his image rights without their consent.”