Diego Armando Maradona: the icon of Argentine football, the who man almost single-handedly led Argentina to World Cup glory in ’86, and soon, he hopes, Argentina’s FIFA representative. Earlier this week, as Maradona celebrated his 56th birthday in Dubai, he released a video addressed to Argentine football fans declaring himself the savior of Argentine football in this time of institutional crisis. Now, in an interview with Clarín, he’s let us know how he plans to do that. He also had a lot to say about many of the hot topics and key figures of Argentine football, as he revealed to thoughts and plans with regards to FIFA, the AFA, Macri, Bauza, Messi and Tévez, among others.
Macri and the AFA
We already know Maradona isn’t exactly President Mauricio Macri’s biggest fan. Not too much of a shock then that he thinks Macri is to blame for the current state of affairs in the AFA.
Maradona claimed that the current issues boil down to Macri’s wrongful appointment of figures such as Armando Perez, who fundamentally don’t understand Argentine football. “Everyone who Macri appointed is a multimillionaire and now football is broken.” With Macri as President, it’s all about the dollar, according to Maradona, and that’s simply not right. A man of the people, Diego wants to put football back where it belongs. “I have talked to Infantino [FIFA President, Gianni Infantino] and I’m going to make big changes… and I mean big changes,” Maradona declared, before adding, “I defend the people and I defend the Argentine football jersey. No-one can argue with that.”
FIFA and Maradona’s future plans
Ok Diego, we get it, you’re great. You love the fans, the game, the jersey, but what you gonna do about it? President of the AFA? Someone’s got to sort that mess out. “I don’t want to be president. I want to be the Argentine ambassador for FIFA. That’s what I want to talk about with Infantino, but I’m going to put people who know football, who don’t betray and who want people to return to football stadiums,” said the ever-confident Maradona, seemingly already certain that he’s got the job in the bag. And he was keen to stress that a shake-up at the AFA would be imminent and extensive. “I’m going to get rid of all corrupt figures. We want a transparent AFA, that helps clubs.” Maradona also seemed to be behind the idea of a Super League, in the belief that the current 30 team league has a negative effect on the quality of the Nacional B. All fair comments, and he’s got a vision of sorts, maybe Maradona wouldn’t be so bad after all…
Faith in Bauza
When asked about the national team’s campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Maradona, who managed the national team from 2008 to 2010, remained confident that his country would qualify and refused to point the finger for the team’s struggles at the coach, Edgardo Bauza. “I completely support him,” Maradona said of Bauza, who’s been in charge since the start of August. And again, Maradona managed to turn the question into a swipe at the AFA. “I speak with Bauza and he only has enemies at the AFA. When I come to Argentina, the first thing I’m going to do is meet with him and bring him friends, people who work hard and feel the jersey like we feel it.” Looking out for poor lonely Bauza, how kind of you Diego.
Messi is the man, but needs help
When asked whether Messi would be the national team’s savior (“salvador”), Diego let us all know that despite the serious talk, he’s still a joker at heart. “Salvador is Bilardo’s [Salvador Bilardo, the coach of Argentina in their ’86 World Cup triumph] name; here there are no saviors (“salvadores”).” Maradona also stressed the need for all eleven men on the pitch to deliver and not just the world’s best player. “If we don’t have a team, we don’t win. If they’re all over Messi, we need to have other options,” Maradona said. And he still sees those options in the form of the two under-fire strikers Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuaín, to whom he offered words of encouragement.
A return to international football for Tévez?
While Maradona still thinks that Higuaín should be the man to lead Argentina’s attack, he also stated his belief that Bauza should recall Carlos Tévez, who hasn’t played for the national team in over a year. “I’ve suggested that Bauza recalls Tévez. People say he’s fallen out with many players but the Argentine jersey goes above and beyond small quarrels.” The undeniable talent of Tévez, whose career has followed a similar pattern to Maradona himself, returning to Boca’s after years of success in Europe, cannot be ignored. “There is no name greater than Carlos Tévez,” Maradona said. High praise indeed from “El Pelusa” himself.
So what to make of all this? In fairness, as fun and as easy as it is to poke fun at Maradona, he talks a lot of sense. And his credentials for being Argentina’s representative in FIFA are fairly strong. In addition to being the more iconic figure in Argentine football history, he represents pretty much everything that Argentine football is: a lot of talent with a fair dose of utter madness. But for that same reason can we really take him seriously? Do we really believe that Diego Maradona is the man to restore order and sanity to Argentine football? Sadly, I think not.