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Thu Apr 24 18:35:35 SAST 2014

Maradona replacement considered by Al Wasl

Michael Casey, Sapa-AP | 30 April, 2012 09:420 Comments
Al Wasl's coach Diego Maradona of Argentina blows a kiss after his team scored their third goal against Al Jazira during their Pro-League match at Mohammad bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi, September 15, 2011
Image by: Jumana El Heloueh / REUTERS

An official with Al Wasl says the United Arab Emirates club is considering several replacements for Diego Maradona, who has threatened to quit if he doesn’t get more money for players.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the club has not commented publicly about Maradona’s future, told The Associated Press that the club is “taking seriously” Maradona’s threat to quit after this season. The official said the club wants Maradona to stay but is looking at several “high profile” replacements.

Maradona, who has asked to meet club chairman Marwan bin Bayat this week, was hired last May on a two-year contract. But club officials said no meeting is imminent.

The Argentine great said last week that Al Wasl had broken promises to provide him with half a dozen players. He said he only received two and that, without the others, the club will be unable to compete next season.

This is not the first time that Maradona has threatened to cut short his contract over a lack of quality players. He also warned the club he would quit in February over a restrictive player budget, though a meeting with Bin Bayat seemed to put the issue to rest. Bin Bayat said the issue would be dealt with after the seaon, which ends in late May.

But with the club floundering in seventh place in the UAE league and with no chance of winning any silverware, Maradona had the look of a man who was looking beyond Al Wasl. He told reporters how he would be “sad” to leave Dubai, but that he couldn’t accept remaining with a club that didn’t allow him to challenge for the title.

Maradona said he has received no other offers and, if he leaves, might take time off and care for his grandson Benjamin — whose name is tattooed on his right forearm .

“I will be ready to leave if I cannot get the players I want,” he said last week. “If I can’t compete, there is no reason to continue. If the players are too expensive or the club lacks of budget, maybe then my leaving the club will be easier on them. They will be able to keep the funds for the players and then invest it in something else they require.” 

Unlike his exploits on the pitch, the 1986 World Cup winner’s track record as a coach has been relatively unimpressive.

He coached Argentina to the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals in South Africa, but was fired after the tournament and was linked to several clubs before accepting the Al Wasl offer.

Before taking over as coach of Argentina in 2008, he had coached only Deportivo Mandiyu in 1994 and Racing Club in 1995. In both cases, he left before his contract was up.

His surprising hiring by Al Wasl raised hopes the club would compete for the league title for the first time since 2007.

Instead, it has struggled, with Maradona blaming the poor performance on everything but his coaching. First, it was bad refereeing and then the federation’s decision to ban the team from playing several home matches due to fan trouble. Now, the lineup isn’t good enough.

The club has plenty of money. With Sheik Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum — a brother of the Dubai ruler — as its president, Al Wasl is considered one of the richest clubs in Dubai.

It has several foreign players in its squad, including Uruguayan striker Juan Olivera and Iranian midfielder Mohammed Reza Khalatberi.

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