Ahead of the World Cup qualifying double-header which kicks off against Peru on Saturday, Diego Maradona did his bit for team harmony amongst the under-pressure Argentina squad by telling the press that he wasn’t sure whether he’d continue as manager if the team qualify for next year’s global extravaganza in South Africa.
Maradona’s words, addressed without warning to the press at the team’s practice session, were broadcast live by several national broadcasters: ‘After these two matches I’m going to see whether I’ll continue, I’m going to evaluate… Once, Julio [Grondona, AFA president] called me to his house, offered me the job, and I told him that I was the happiest man in the world.
‘But after that, things happened which I didn’t like and I’m going to talk about them [presumably he meant with Grondona, because he didn’t elucidate further on this point]. If I continue, it will be on my own terms.’
There are some who think that Pablo Zabaleta’s injury which has forced the Manchester City defender’s withdrawal from the squad might be the straw that’s broken the camel’s back. Maradona had previously suggested that someone from the AFA should travel to Manchester and convince City not to play Zabaleta or Carlos Tevez in Monday night’s Premier League match against Aston Villa, but no-one travelled, and Zabaleta has had to withdraw.
Maradona’s decision not to call up anyone in place of Zabaleta has meant, with Javier Zanetti already left out of the initial squad, that right back is going to be an experimental position for the two crucial games. Along with the argument over Oscar Ruggeri’s suitability for an assistant’s role, what exactly Carlos Bilardo’s role constitutes, and the flight to Italy instead of attending a meeting with Bilardo and Grondona after the defeats to Brazil and Paraguay, it’s all added up. What no-one seems to be suggesting though, is that maybe it adds up to an indication that Maradona shouldn’t be allowed to continue, and certainly not under ‘his own conditions.’