Diego Maradona May Be Out As Argentina Football Manager

John Tilghman Correspondent IJuly 27, 2010

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 03:  Diego Maradona head coach of Argentina looks dejected  during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Final match between Argentina and Germany at Green Point Stadium on July 3, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

After much speculation, Diego Armando Maradona has fallen on his own sword and will not continue as Argentina's manager. 

Argentine Football Association President Julio Grondona had placed conditions over Maradona's extension, demanding that the former National Team captain would have to axe various members of his technical staff and replace them with more experienced options.

Alejandro Mancuso, a teammate of Maradona at the 1994 World Cup, was one of those Grondona wanted to see gone, and Maradona would agree to dismiss one of his closest confidants. 

El Pibe De Oro was also very stubborn on his desire to see Oscar Ruggeri, another ex-teammate of Maradona, join his staff, but Grondona had made it clear since Maradona took over in November of 2008 that Ruggeri would never join the staff. 

It is believed by the Argentine press that Ruggeri, although not part of the Argentine delegation in South Africa, played a big part in Argentina's embarrassing loss to Germany by telling Maradona to not change a winning team, even though there were clearly weaknesses in the side that beat Mexico. 

It is not hard to see Maradona as a successful manager with the right people around him, but the ex-Napoli star's ego will never let him take advice from a more technically savvy coach, which is why his relationship with Carlos Bilardo, who was meant to be Maradona's advisor during his tenure as coach, crumbled, leaving the 1986 World Cup winning coach with no contact with the team. 

Instead of listening to Bilardo or trying to incorporate coaches with actual experience, Maradona chose to align himself with the typical "yes men" that have surrounded him his entire life. 

Politics had played a major role in Maradona's perceived chances of continuing, with the government desperate to have Maradona on its side during 2011, which features both the Copa America on home soil and Presidential Eleactions shortly thereafter.

Anibal Fernandez, Chief of the President Cristina Kirchner's Cabinet, had tried to get in touch with Maradona 20 times since the end of the World Cup, but was unable to make contact with the Argentine idol.

Maradona had also ignored calls from Grondona before deciding to go to Venezuela and visit his friend Hugo Chavez, infuriating the AFA and leaving Grondona at a boiling point. 

If Maradona had indeed wanted to continue as manager, he certainly shot himself in the foot. 

Answering phone calls from football and government officials. Aligning himself with competent assistants. These are not exactly the most the most compromising stipulations, making one think that Maradona had never intended to proceed as Argentina's boss for the 2011 Copa America and beyond. 

Now with Maradona out of the picture, Argentina can hopefully obtain a coach at the level of its star players. 

The early favorite is Estudiantes boss Alejandro Sabella, who led Estudiantes to the 2009 Copa Libertadores crown. Sabella only just signed an extension at Estudiantes, but he has a clause allowing him to leave should a call come from the National Side.

The Estudiantes boss is the early leader, but there are others in the fight. 

Diego Simeone, who represented Argentina 106 times as a player, won two Copa America, and played in three World Cups is a younger option. 

El Cholo, as Simeone is known, has had a mixed start to his coaching career, winning two titles, one with Estudiantes in 2006 and River Plate in 2008, but other than those two triumphs, his results have been extremely poor. 

The potential is certainly there, but it may not be the right time to throw Simeone into the hot seat. 

Under 20 Manager Sergio Batista will take over the team on an interim basis, beginning with the friendly next month in Dublin. 

It is believed that Batista will collaborate with Bilardo to make the list of call-ups for that match. 

Batista had been one of the favorites to take the position back in 2008 after leading Argentina to the Olympic Gold Medal in Beijing, but since then he failed to qualify Argentina for the 2009 Under 20 World Cup, despite being the two-time defending champions. 

Another possible choice is Gerardo Martino, who led Paraguay to the quarterfinals where they were a few poor refereeing decisions away from knocking out Spain. 

Martino has extended his stay as Paraguay's boss until after the 2011 Copa America, but it is possible that Batista could keep the seat warm until then. 

Carlos Bianchi, the legendary manager of Boca Juniors and Velez Sarsfield, is the choice of the people, but Bianchi has made it clear numerous times that he will not work with Grondona, making his appointment practically impossible. 

Ramon Diaz, a teammate of Maradona at 1979 Under 20 World Cup where Argentina topped the USSR in the Final, has also been mentioned. 

Famous for his stint at River Plate in the mid 1990's, Ramon is a cult figure amongst River Plate and San Lorenzo supporters, but the former Inter Milan and Fiorentina striker has just returned to San Lorenzo (after leading them to the title in 2007) and is unlikely to vacate his post before even taking charge of one match. 

Racing Club's Miguel Angel Russo has long craved the chance to direct Argentina, but it appears that his club will be unwilling to let him go. 

It is unlikely that we see a decision made in the next few days as Batista is a safe pair of hands until the next manager is chosen, but whoever takes charge, it will be a better option than Maradona. 


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