Football: Maradonna hoping for Sunday outing

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

DIEGO MARADONA looks increasingly likely to make his Spanish League debut for Seville on Sunday, away to Athletic Bilbao, following confirmation from Fifa yesterday that his pounds 4.3m transfer from Napoli had been completed.

The 31-year-old captain of Argentina's World Cup winning team of 1986 made a promising first appearance for his new club in a friendly match against Bayern Munich last Monday, his first game since ending a 15-month ban for cocaine use.

'He will play for sure. He needs to play,' said the Seville trainer, Javier Valdecantos, who added that the final decision rested with the club's coach, Carlos Bilardo, Maradona's friend and former national manager.

Bilardo, though, sounded a note of caution when he said that Maradona was only at 40per cent of capacity following a 90-minute training session on Wednesday. But if he were to play this weekend, he would comprehensively upstage the match between the surprise league leaders, Deportivo de La Coruna, and Real Madrid.

Despite sixth-placed Seville's need for points, Bilardo said: 'If he is not ready to play from the first minute, he will not go to Bilbao.' But Luis Cuervas, the Seville chairman who is keen to make an early return on his investment, said: 'Seville want Maradona to play everywhere. We are not going to throw away a chance for his debut. The main thing is that he's OK and determined.'

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