Julio Grondona does not accede to El Diego’s demands for his own assistants – the choice of Oscar Ruggeri was particularly problematic. This is not new. Maradona had threatened to resign immediately after being appointed as coach if Ruggeri was to be excluded. The issue was resolved with Carlos Bilardo acting as mediator.
Maradona made continuation as national coach conditional on absolute control over his backroom staff, insisting that if “If they touch a hair of one of my guys, even if it’s the masseur or the kitman, I’m going.
Other issues cropped up in his meeting with Grondona as the AFA president taking exception to Maradona’s declaration he would not want to watch the Germany match and it was just the one game that was the problem. There was nothing to learn from that loss.
Maradona’s failure to be self critical and his insistence on the sort of backroom staff who were essentially rubber stamps probably convinced Grondona that El Diego lacked the critical skills to learn tactics for the 2014 World Cup. But even before that going through over a 100 players, playing politics with River Plate in hosting Brazil at Rosario Central, and the AFA stripping him of autonomy over selections after the Bolivia loss marked a troubled and haphazard coaching career.
His tenure as coach was the shortest on record since Grondona took over as AFA president in 1979. Lasting one year, seven months, and twelve days. Maradona took over Alfio Basile in November 2008 and achieved World Cup qualification after a number of twists and turns, amidst mounting concerns within the public and a skeptical media, capped finally with a victory over Paraguay which he celebrated by performing the infamous “Penguin dive”.
Maradona’s bizarre profanity laden press conference as he laced into media for their critical coverage got him banned for two months. More sideline entertainment at the World Cup was to follow as he exchanged the dressed down tracksuit and clean shaven look for a Mario Puzo character in a rumpled suit and a beard.
He was like a warm, cuddly bear, indulging in touchy feely displays with each of his players, after each goal, tackle, and victory. Who wears two watches? One can’t remember anything like it ever in football history. It seemed to work for a while, as Argentina played stylish attacking football to win the group stage convincingly.
However Mexico was a tough act and then came the German annihilation in the quarter-finals. Suddenly, inspiration on the sidelines could not tide over as Maradona looked woefully short of tactical nous with the Germans scoring at will.
So who takes over now? Carlos Bianchi is everyone’s favourite and with a legendary record of winning four Copa Libertadores titles should be considered a front runner. But the former Velez Sarsfield striker has a poor relationship with the autocratic Grondona. In addition, he has not coached for a long time now, having turned a number of coaching jobs since leaving Atletico Madrid in 2005.
The coach most mentioned after Bianchi is Checho Batista who led Argentina to its 2008 Olympics gold medal. He is also coach of the U20, with a much needed pulse on the younger talent who might find their way into the senior squad in a few years.
Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa could also find his way back into consideration after doing such a wonderful job with Chile. Perhaps Argentina would like to lure back their coaching talent. Another candidate could be Alejandro Sabella of Estudiantes guiding them to a famous Copa Libertadores victory in his first year as coach. A number of former players who turned to coaching after retirement with varying degrees of success – Miguel Angel Russo, Diego Simeone, and Americo Gallego also have an outside chance.
In November 2008, we had written why Maradona would not have made good coach with our reasons >>