Diego Maradona's Reign as Argentina Coach Ends on Grondona Rift

Diego Maradona said he was lied to by Argentine Football Association President Julio Grondona and betrayed by the national team’s manager Carlos Bilardo before his sacking yesterday as the side’s coach.

“Grondona lied to me, Bilardo betrayed me,” Maradona said to reporters today on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. “All my team and I were ready to continue.”

The association’s executive committee “unanimously resolved” not to extend Maradona’s contract because he wasn’t prepared to accept changes to his aides, committee member Rafael Savino said last night.

Maradona, 49, said on Argentine television this week that he wouldn’t continue in the post he took in late 2008 if the association insisted on staff moves.

“I stand by all my people, from the masseuse to the equipment man,” Maradona said today, reading from a prepared statement. His staff included two doctors, two assistant coaches, two physical trainers, a press officer and an equipment man.

Association spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo didn’t return a phone call from Bloomberg seeking comment.

Maradona, who led his country to its last World Cup title in 1986 and the final four years later, took over the national team in November 2008. He used more than 100 players, winning 18 and losing six of his 24 international games in charge.

Quarterfinal Exit

Argentina lost six matches in 2009, the first time since 1919 that it had so many defeats in a calendar year. Maradona didn’t oversee that year’s loss to Catalonia because he was banned for a profanity-laced tirade toward journalists following a World Cup qualifying game.

In South Africa last month, Maradona’s team exited at the quarterfinal stage in a 4-0 defeat to Germany. It was Argentina’s most lopsided World Cup loss in 36 years.

Argentina finished fifth at the tournament, according to soccer governing body FIFA, its best result since losing in the 1990 final.

Sergio Batista, the coach of Argentina’s under-20 team, will lead the senior squad in its next match, an Aug. 11 exhibition against Ireland. Batista played with Maradona at the 1986 World Cup and coached Argentina to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Bilardo, who coached Argentina in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, will continue in his position, Cherquis Bialo said yesterday. Bilardo took the position when Maradona was named coach in 2008. Last year, Bilardo told reporters he would quit if Maradona left the national team.

Argentina is scheduled to host next year’s Copa America as it seeks a first major trophy at the senior level since 1993.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rodrigo Orihuela in Buenos Aires at rorihuela@bloomberg.net

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