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Maradona likely to take over as Argentina’s national coach

Buenos Aires: Diego Maradona is expected to be confirmed as Argentina coach on Thursday, his 48th birthday.

Maradona and Carlos Bilardo were asked on Tuesday to lead the national team by Julio Grondona, head of the Argentine Football Association.

Although the AFA and Grondona were yet to make official statements following the meeting, Maradona was already speaking to reporters as the future coach, and local media was widely reporting he would accept the job on Thursday.

Maradona told Fox Sports that “my path is with the national team ... my path is to speak with the players, try to put together a solid group with Carlos.”

“Now we’re just waiting for it to be official. The idea is to get started right away when it becomes official.

“I’ll put together the team, I’ll choose the players and I’m sure Carlos will take care of a ton of other things,” he said.

Grondona led the search for a coach following Alfio Basile’s recent resignation for personal reasons he’s yet to make public. He stepped down on October 16 following a first loss to neighbour Chile in World Cup qualifying. Argentina was third in the South American race. Argentina’s next match was a friendly at Scotland on November 19.

Tevez congratulates

Manchester United forward Carlos Tevez was the first Argentine player to congratulate Maradona on the possible post. “What can be better motivation for a player than to have Diego as a coach?” Tevez said.

Bilardo was currently the head of the Sports Secretariat for Buenos Aires province.

Maradona’s previous coaching experiences have not been positive. He led Deportivo Mandiyu in 1994 and Racing Club in 1995, and in both cases abandoned the post before the contract was up.

Maradona regarded teammates from his 1986 World Cup champion side also worthy national coaches, players such as Jose Luis Brown, Pedro Troglio and Sergio Batista.

Batista, the national youth coach, guided Argentina to Olympic gold in Beijing, and was considered to be on a shortlist with River Plate’s Diego Simeone and San Lorenzo’s Miguel Angel Russo.

Maradona captained Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, and the 1990 final. The next year, his drug-plagued fall from grace began with a positive test for cocaine leading to a 15-month ban from the Serie A.

Messi unperturbed

Argentina forward Lionel Messi has said he is unperturbed by Maradona’s possible appointment despite the soccer great accusing him of selfish play in the past.

“They were things that were said on the spur of the moment. I know that Diego appreciates me and I don’t hold a grudge,” Barcelona’s Messi told on Wednesday’s Gazzetta dello Sport.

“There will be no problem. He is a great. I admire him for what he has given to Argentinian soccer. I am optimistic. The generation that won the Beijing Olympics is up and coming.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who lifted the 2006 World Cup, welcomed the potential appointment of one of soccer’s most controversial figures.

“His charisma will make the players follow him 100 percent. They will listen to him like an oracle,” he told Italian media.

Messi and Aguero have both been talked up as the new Maradona with the pair in the running for the Ballon d’Or — the former European footballer of the year award. — Agencies

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