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Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Argentina to offer Maradona new deal

Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- The Argentine Football Association said it will offer Diego Maradona a new four-year contract that would keep him in charge of the national team through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, a spokesman for the association, told reporters Wednesday that AFA President Julio Grondona would meet next week with Maradona to discuss the offer.

This is the strongest indication that Maradona is likely to continue as the coach. It comes two weeks after Argentina was knocked out of the World Cup in a humiliating 4-0 quarterfinals loss to Germany. Maradona has said little since then, keeping to himself in his home in suburban Buenos Aires.

Cherquis Bialo said the association did not have another coach in mind should Maradona turn down the deal. He also suggested Argentina's performance in the World Cup had been respectable, despite anything less than a third title being seen as a failure by many Argentines.

Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, but has not won a major title since claiming the Copa America in 1993.

"Fifth place is below what people here expect," Cherquis Bialo said. "But it's not embarrassing to an Argentine team."

His mention of fifth place was a little presumptuous.

There was no playoff among the four quarterfinalists eliminated. The losing semifinalists -- Germany and Uruguay -- did have a playoff game to decide third and fourth place.

Public opinion is divided about the 49-year-old coach, who is a national icon as a player who led the country to the 1986 title. But he is seen by many as a poor tactician, an unqualified coach whose main asset is cheerleading.

Argentina President Cristina Fernandez has publicly supported him, and an Argentine legislator has proposed building a monument to honor him.

Many of his players, including Barcelona star Lionel Messi, have said Maradona should make his own decision about staying on the job.