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Maradona offers to coach national team for free as Sampaoli flies into BA

Retired players says he would return to leading the national team and would not ask for anything in return.

Today 01:32 PM
Diego Maradona wants to coach the Argentine national team, should Jorge Sampaoli be fired as coach.
Diego Maradona wants to coach the Argentine national team, should Jorge Sampaoli be fired as coach. Foto:AFP

Diego Maradona wants to return to the position of Argentina coach and is willing to work for free, as Jorge Sampaoli faces pressure to resign following their World Cup travails.

Speaking on his Hand of God television show, the 57-year-old Maradona, who coached Argentina for two years from 2008-10, said it was painful to see the current state of the national team.

"I would return to leading the national team and I would do it for free, I wouldn't ask for anything in return," Maradona said on his programme, which runs on Venezuelan channel Telesur and is hosted by Victor Hugo.

Sampaoli is resisting intense pressure to resign following the Albiceleste's 4-3 defeat to France on Saturday during a World Cup campaign that was fraught with tension and disputes. The coach is believed to have lost the support of his players.

Sampaoli, though, has another four years to run on his contract, meaning the Argentine Football Association (AFA) would have to pay a reported US$15 million (12.9 million euros) to sack him.

On Wednesday, the under-pressure coach arrived back in Buenos Aires, without speaking to the press.

Sampaoli, 58, arrived at Ezeiza airport early in the morning and was seen boarding a bus that took him to the national team's nearby training ground. 

"Hopefully God will give me the strength to return to the bench," said Maradona, whose own World Cup coaching campaign in 2010 ended in an ignominious 4-0 thumping by Germany in the quarter-finals in South Africa.

"I'm 57, watching my country, which was beaten by a team that isn't one of the best in the world – it really hursts to see everything that we've built destroyed so easily."

Maradona was a genius as a player, leading Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 and again to the final four years later. But his coaching career has been far less glamorous despite his stint in charge of the national team, in which he presided over a record-equalling 6-1 defeat to Bolivia.

His last two jobs were in the United Arab Emirates, most recently failing to guide Fujairah to promotion from the Emirati second division last season.

Gareca considers future

One possible name that has entered the frame as a potential replacement for Sampaoli, should he be sacked, is the Argentine coach Ricardo Gareca, who coached Peru at the World Cup in Russia.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Gareca said for now he is "a free coach" as he considers whether to extend his time in charge of Peru.

Asked about the possibility of coaching Argentina, Gareca said the idea would "seduce anyone."

"Argentina is a team that would seduce anyone, it is a top level team," he said, evidently pleased to be mentioned as a possible candidate to head the national team.

Being linked with the Argentina job was "gratifying from every point of view," Gareca said.

"It is the only thing I can say," he added.

- TIMES/AFP

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