Argentine soccer execs tell AP: Maradona must replace staff, jeopardizing his coaching future

By Vicente L. Panetta, AP
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

AP sources: Maradona’s coaching future in doubt

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s soccer federation has asked Diego Maradona to replace most of his staff, jeopardizing his future as coach of the national team, members of the federation’s executive committee said Tuesday.

Maradona has said with trademark defiance he would refuse to renew his contract if even one person on his staff was dismissed.

But in a meeting Monday, Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona asked him to replace seven of his assistants, several executive committee members told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make public statements about the meeting.

Grondona and others asked Maradona to remove close friend and assistant Alejandro Mancuso along with six others. The Argentine sports newspaper Ole on Tuesday called Grondona’s actions a “concealed goodbye.” Grondona and Maradona have made no statements.

Maradona’s contract with AFA ended with Argentina’s humiliating 4-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Two weeks ago, the AFA offered Maradona the chance to renew his contract for another four years. But Maradona put off meeting Grondona to travel to Venezuela. Maradona is friends with President Hugo Chavez, who extended an invitation.

Maradona also ruffled feathers in the Argentine government. President Cristina Fernandez twice invited Maradona to meet with her but the coach never responded to phone messages by her secretaries, cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said last week.

Maradona’s relationship with key figures in Argentine soccer is also tense. He kept leaders of AFA and businessmen with commercial ties to the organization from practices in South Africa while allowing reporters to enter.

Maradona’s results as coach have been mixed. Since he took the job in November 2008, the team has played 15 games, with eight victories and seven losses. Two of the defeats rank among the worst in the team’s history: the 4-0 loss to Germany in Cape Town and a 6-1 loss to Bolivia during World Cup qualifying in La Paz.

If Maradona resigns, Estudiantes coach Alejandro Sabella and Racing’s Miguel Russo are likely candidates to succeed him. But an interim coach would likely be needed for an Aug. 11 exhibition game against Ireland in Dublin.

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