'Excess of fatigue' puts Maradona back in clinic

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Diego Maradona was back in intensive care here yesterday, at the same clinic from which he had abruptly discharged himself last Thursday after nearly two weeks of emergency treatment for heart and lung problems.

Local reports said that the 43-year-old was taken to hospital with breathing problems and was using an intravenous drip after being taken to the hospital early yesterday morning. Dr Alfredo Cahe, Maradona's personal physician, said Argentina's 1986 World Cup winner had returned to the Suizo-Argentina Clinic because of an "an excess of fatigue" and was undergoing a check-up.

Dr Cahe told a local radio station that Maradona was expected to remain at the private clinic in downtown Buenos Aires "for the next two or three days".

Argentinian television networks went live outside the clinic where Maradona was first admitted on 18 April with chest pains and placed on a respirator. Maradona was on the critical list for several days and doctors said that he was suffering from a heart inflammation and a lung infection.

Maradona had apparently got down from the ambulance and walked into the hospital under his own power. According to reports, he was back in intensive care, in the same room where he was placed last month.

After leaving the hospital last Thursday, Maradona had gone to a friend's country estate some 35 miles north of Buenos Aires where he spent his days playing golf and receiving well-wishers.

At the secluded country estate in General Rodriguez northwest of the capital, Maradona was frequently seen playing golf and driving a golf cart on its private course. He occasionally spoke with reporters standing watch outside the locked gates and also received family, friends and well-wishers from the football world. Maradona's family said drugs had nothing to do with his latest medical problems.

He was reportedly paid £45,000 for a television interview on Friday in which he said he "was dying", but that fans had called him back from the tunnel of death. According to the Clarin newspaper he also received two watches and a car for agreeing to talk to Susana Gimenez, a popular talk-show host.

"I want to thank the people who prayed for me," he said. "I saw death up close and I wanted them to cover me, to caress me." His eyes welling with tears, Maradona added: "When God decides it's time, I guess He'll come for us."

Maradona told Gimenez that he plans to return to Cuba, where he has been living for the last four years and receiving drug rehabilitation treatment, specifically for cocaine addiction. He returned to Argentina on personal business more than a month ago when he had to undergo his second emergency hospitalisation in four years.

In January 2000, Maradona was taken to hospital in Uruguay and diagnosed with a severe heart condition. He then sought medical help in Cuba.

Reports about Maradona's health brought scores of people to the Buenos Aires clinic last month, prompting an outpouring of get-well messages from fans in Argentina and around the world.

Maradona's father was hospitalised for respiratory problems on Friday. Worry about his son's condition had apparently contributed to his ill health.

In a 20-year career before his retirement in 1997, Maradona led Argentina to the 1990 World Cup final as well as winning the 1986 competition, and won Italian and Argentinian league titles. In 2000, the governing body of world football, Fifa, chose Maradona and Pele as the greatest players in history.

He was suspended from the Italian league while playing for Napoli in 1991 for 15 months following a positive test for cocaine. He played in his fourth World Cup finals in the United States in 1994, but tested positive for a cocktail of drugs the day before he was due to make a record 22nd appearance. He was again suspended for 15 months.