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Diego Maradona's Argentina pipe dream

October 17, 2008 |  9:54 pm

Maradona_300Argentina has a national soccer team that boasts some of the finest players in the world, players such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano.

It also has an apparently delusional former player who thinks he has the credentials to coach them to the World Cup.

Diego Armando Maradona (pictured at left) has tossed his long-since-discredited name into the ring as a replacement for Alfio Basile, who resigned as Argentina's coach in the wake of a 1-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Chile on Wednesday and a string of indifferent results over the last few months.

"Perhaps I am behind in the betting, but I am without doubt the No. 1 in the hearts of Argentines," Maradona said on Friday in Buenos Aires. "I couldn't ask for anything better. I would be in seventh heaven."

Maradona might be idolized in his native land for leading Argentina to its 1986 World Cup triumph in Mexico, where his illegal hand ball against England skewed the competition, but he is nowhere near qualified to be national coach.

At 47, and after a long and tortured history of drug and alcohol abuse, he is better suited to his role as a television host and cheerleader for Argentina and Boca Juniors, his favorite club, than to the pressure-filled task of taking charge of a country that should rank among the favorites to win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Maradona tried his hand at coaching club soccer in Argentina in the mid-1990s without notable success. He has not coached anywhere since then.

Sergio Batista, a teammate of Maradona on the 1986 World Cup-winning team and on the team that lost the 1990 final to Germany, is favored to replace Basile. He does have the credentials. Batista coached Argentina to the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, where Maradona was a frequent guest in the locker room.

There is some sentiment in Argentina to have Batista and Maradona team up again, as coach and assistant, with Maradona not necessarily the top of the ticket, but Julio Grondona, president of the Argentine soccer federation, is said to be against such a plan.

If so, Grondona is on the right track.

Maradona brings way too much baggage to one of the most high-profile jobs in soccer.

If Argentines are serious about wanting to win the World Cup for a third time, they would be well advised to keep their favorite son at arm's length. He is not the answer.

-- Grahame L. Jones

Photo credit: Juan Mabromata / AFP/Getty Images