It’s been a long day for everyone following the business behind closed doors between Julio Grondona, the AFA president, and Diego Maradona, who was expected to sign on the dotted line and put his name to a new four year contract in charge of the national side after the ‘5th place’ (Grondona’s words) finish at the World Cup. After two hours of talks, both left without saying a word to anyone, and Olé are now reported on their site that – barring miracle tomorrow – the Maradona Era is all but over.
Tomorrow Grondona will give a ‘state of play’ talk to the AFA’s directors. The squad for the friendly on the 11th August against the Republic of Ireland will also be announced – and although Maradona’s drawn that squad list up, he’s not expected to be in charge for the match. Of course, where Diego Maradona’s concerned we can never be sure what will happen next. Over the weekend he’d talked loudly about his chances of signing (or otherwise), saying at one point, ‘if they touch even the kitman or the masseur, I’m walking.’
According to Olé, Grondona’s wishes regarding Diego’s backroom team did indeed play a part. Far be it from me to conjecture, but I’d be willing to guess that Maradona’s speech yesterday was a way of shifting the emphasis to Grondona for upsetting him, because he doesn’t want people to say he’s walking out on his country. Grondona wanted Carlos Bilardo to have more of a role from this point forward, and wanted to get rid of Alejandro Mancuso, one of Diego’s assistants (in the middle in the picture above). He’s also a fan of Fernando Gamboa, but Maradona’s not so hot on ‘El Negro’.
Allegedly, after the meeting Maradona went directly to another meeting, with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a woman who’s made rather a habit, especially in the last twelve months, of politicising football. Her office was most upset that, when invited to come and meet La Presidenta after the World Cup, Maradona didn’t even reply to the invitation. She’s previously been supportive of Maradona (it would hardly be a vote-winner to criticise him even now), but is beginning to wonder whether the association will really do her much good at the ballot boxes next year.
The best part of all is, Tuesday is the day on which the squad to face the Republic of Ireland in next month’s friendly has to be announced. It’s been widely reported that in the event of Maradona not signing today, Sergio Batista (the youth coach) would pick that team, but since Batista’s still on holiday in Paraguay… Maradona’s agreed to draw up the list! Not that we need reminding, but Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, the AFA’s spokesman, said it anyway; ‘there’s no plan B if Maradona leaves.’
You can follow Maradona, Grondona and all other things Argentine and footbally during the winter break and beyond into the 2010 Apertura via HEGS on Twitter. If you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here.
Photo taken from canchallena.com