Diego Maradona won't be short of birthday parties when he turns 50 in October, but he will be out of a job. The future of the footballer best remembered as the midfielder for Argentina in four World Cups -- and hero of its 1986 World Cup win -- hinged on how well the national team performed in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in June. The team failed to secure the trophy for Argentina, and Maradona was replaced by Sergio Batista.
Named coach in 2008, he was mocked and second-guessed for his squad selections and tactics throughout Argentina's nearly disastrous 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. He had been heavily criticised for defeats to Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay that took Argentina to the brink of failing to reach the World Cup finals for the first time since 1970. But for a narrow win over Uruguay, Argentina wouldn't even have qualified for the finals. FIFA suspended Maradona after the match because of a profane outburst. He was restored to his job in January. Maradona has played professionally for more than two decades, for FC Barcelona (1982-84) and SSC Napoli (1984-91) as well as Argentina. He has been dogged by ill health -- a heart attack in 2004, obesity, and drug problems -- but retains a loyal following who still remember his brilliance in the 1986 World Cup. "Re-watching footage of Diego play football fills me with so much joy it's difficult to describe," said fan Leonardo Diaz, clutching a replica of the 1986 World Cup, in a 2008 Telegraph article when his confirmation as coach was pending. Maradona owes the Italian inland revenue more than 30 million euros stemming from unpaid taxes when he played for Napoli and helped them to win the Serie A title in 1987 and 1990. Diamond earrings that were confiscated from him in part payment of the arrears in Italy were sold to an anonymous woman at auction in January for 25,000 euros ($36,000), according to newswires.
Date written/update: 2010-10-30