Maradona reign begins amid confusion
Thursday 06 November 2008
Diego Maradona's reign as coach of Argentina got off to a confused but entertaining start. Maradona, who makes his debut against Scotland in a friendly on 19 November, ran into his first problem during Tuesday's official presentation when he backtracked over the naming of his assistants.
The 48-year-old, who joked that he routinely got up at midday, announced last week that former Argentina team-mates Sergio Batista and Jose Luis Brown would take on the role but on Tuesday changed his mind and said nothing had been decided.
Maradona has reportedly proposed that the former defender Oscar Ruggeri and the midfielder Alejandro Mancuso could work alongside him, a suggestion which has been widely questioned by the Argentinian media and public. Ruggeri, known during his playing days for his ruthless tackling, has had a particularly unfortunate series of coaching experiences.
He resigned at Mexico's UAG after losing his first six games in early 2003, then took charge of Independiente in his homeland but resigned four months later after being jeered and insulted by fans at a home game. In 2004, he went to the Spanish second division club Elche but was fired after 20 games. He returned to Mexico and joined America, the country's richest club, and this time lasted only six games. Ruggeri's last coaching experience was with San Lorenzo in 2006 where he was again fired after poor results, including a 7-1 home defeat by Boca Juniors.
Maradona also gave few clues on how his team would play, which some critics interpreted as meaning that he had not yet decided. Maradona's first squad announcement – 20 foreign-based players for the Scotland game – included no real surprises and, like his predecessor Alfio Basile, he overlooked the Italian-based striker Mauro Zarate despite his impressive recent form for Lazio.
Whatever the outcome of Argentina's Maradona gamble, it certainly will not be boring if his presentation, described as a cabaret by the sports daily Ole, is anything to go by. With his 1986 coach Carlos Bilardo at his side in a new capacity as manager, Tuesday's event was a far cry from the standard footballing cliches about respecting the opposition and taking each game as it comes.
Maradona answered questions with a frankness often lacking in coaches while Bilardo, 69, said he wanted the media to criticise the team, hoping for a repeat of 1986 when his squad arrived in Mexico under a hail of criticism and went on to win the World Cup. "They have to hit [criticise] us more, when people start hitting you have to defend yourselves and that makes us tougher," said Bilardo, who warned his family not to expect him home early. "The national team comes first and it comes before my family," said Bilardo with a deadpan expression. "My wife isn't going to complain, she knows me."
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