Will Maradona Succeed As Boss?

Posted on: 18 November 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Maradona makes his international management debut on Wednesday but could he put his legendary status in jeopardy?

George Burley has told his Scotland players to prepare for global attention at Hampden Park on Wednesday when the appearance of Diego Maradona in the visiting dug-out will add excitement to the friendly visit of Argentina.


Career Stats

Born: 30/10/60

Height: 5ft 5in

Position: Attacking Midfield

Club Appearances: 590

Club Goals: 311

International Caps: 91

International Goals: 34

Maradona's appointment as Argentina's manager has prompted media applications from as far afield as Fiji and Australia for the encounter and up to 450 journalists are expected to descend on Glasgow. Lionel Messi is a notable exception from Maradona's first squad while Burley named his own, 26-man party last week.


"It is now a huge game because of the Maradona factor and Argentina will want to make a positive impression on him," says Scotland's manager.


"All the eyes of the world will be on this game. One of the game's greatest is in town and that brings its baggage.”


In one of his press conferences this week, Burley could not resist a dig at his assistant, Terry Butcher, who played in the infamous match between England and Argentina at the 1986 World Cup.


"When Terry gets to the bench on Wednesday, it is the nearest he will have got to Maradona," said a smiling Burley, who faced a teenage Maradona when Argentina visited Hampden in 1979, a match in which the Argentinean scored his first international goal.


"He was amazing. He could run quicker with the ball than without it. The players are all looking forward to playing against the Argentina team of today, players like Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano. And it is a big game for Maradona, his first game. He will be coaching his players to go out and play on the ball, to take people on and dribble with it."


Maradona making his debut in 1977Diego Armando Maradona, now 48, is considered one of the sport’s most controversial and newsworthy figures as well as one of the all time greats. He shared the FIFA Player of the Century award with Pele after finishing first in a FIFA internet poll on the best player of the 20th century.


Over the course of his professional club career Maradona played for Boca Juniors, FC Barcelona, and, most distinguishably, SSC Napoli in Italy. In his international career, playing for Argentina, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals.


He played in four FIFA World Cup tournaments, including the 1986 World Cup where he captained Argentina and led them to their victory over West Germany in the final, winning the Golden Ball award as the tournament's best player.


In that same tournament's quarter-final round he scored two remarkable goals in a 2-1 victory over England which instantly cemented his fame. The first goal was an unpenalised handball known as the "Hand of God", while the second goal was a spectacular 60-metre weave through six England players, commonly referred to as "The Goal of the Century".


However it’s not always been cloud nine for the boy born in Lanus. Raised in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires, to a poor family that had moved from Corrientes Province, Diego was never far from controversy.


He was suspended from football for 15 months in 1991 after failing a doping test for cocaine in Italy, and he was sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the USA for using ephedrine.


After retiring from playing on his 37th birthday in 1997, he increasingly suffered ill health and weight gain, hardly helped by ongoing cocaine abuse. In 2005 a stomach stapling operation helped control his weight gain. After overcoming his cocaine addiction, he became a popular TV host in Argentina before being named as the new head coach of the Argentina national football team in late October.


Maradona in 1981It’s not the first team the Golden Boy has taken up the reigns as a manager post-retirement. He attempted to work as a coach on two short stints, leading Mandiyú of Corrientes in 1994 and Racing Club twelve months later but without success.


Despite his lack of experience, Maradona can’t wait to bring his troops to Scotland.


"I'm going to a country where they adore me because of the goal against the English,” says Maradona.


"The English and the Scots get on horribly - serious bad blood. But now we are going to play a game against Scotland, where they are going to treat us well."


Argentina and Barcelona star Lionel Messi will not play against Scotland next month as he was allowed to go to the Olympics by the Spanish club.


But Messi has welcomed Maradona's expected appointment, despite being recently criticised by the Argentine legend for his attitude on the pitch.


"Those are things that you say at the time. I know Diego appreciates me and I don't hold any grudges. I’m as excited as anyone to see him take charge," Messi told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.


"There's no problem. He's a great and I admire him for what he gave to Argentine football."


Maradona spent seven seasons at Italian Serie A side Napoli and the club's former president, Corrado Ferlaino, insisted the Argentine was effectively the coach on the pitch. 


"There was a time when Ottavio Bianchi was the coach but from his second season the players didn't talk to Bianchi, Maradona was the true coach," says Ferlaino.


So can one of the best players in the history of the sport revive his national team?


Will Maradona make a success of his new job? Can Scotland spoil the South American party on Wednesday evening?


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