The Ten, Big Nose and The Boss

The Ten is angry with Big Nose and The Boss for scheming behind his back.

The Boss knows that The Ten is impossible to control, but puts up with him because he is, after all, The Ten. The people love him.

Big Nose also knows that The Ten is impossible to control, and had been told by The Boss to make sure the whole project didn’t go horribly wrong. But when he did what The Boss asked of him, The Ten made is clear that he was having none of it.

The relationship between The Boss (Julio Grondona), Big Nose (Carlos Bilardo) and The Ten (Diego Maradona) is a marriage of inconvenience.

In some way or other, all of them owe the other two. Big Time. Grondona stayed in his job as AFA president largely thanks to the success of Bilardo and Maradona on the pitch. Bilardo enjoyed the unconditional support of Grondona as national team coach, and then won the World Cup thanks to Maradona’s brilliance. Maradona was a World Cup winning captain with Bilardo, and is now national team coach thanks to the indulgence of Grondona.

So with this backstory of favours and debts, along with the odd falling out over precisely what Bilardo’s job is, plus an international friendly thrown in for good measure, another perfect storm has hit the Argentine national team.

This week an Argentina B side made up of locally-based players takes on Ghana. The Ghanaians have demonstrated the importance of this game by sending a C side. The fans in Córdoba, where the game will be played, haven’t exactly been buying the tickets en masse.

The idea is to take a look at players based in Argentina who will be in the squad for next week’s two do-or-die qualifiers against Peru and Uruguay.

When the planning was under way for the game, however, Diego was in Italy, shedding several kilos at an expensive spa and handing over a £3,400 pair of earrings to the Italian tax man.

NEWS, Fri 18 Sep: Tax police seize Maradona's earrings

In Maradona’s absence, Bilardo met with Grondona. Maradona was invited to the meeting but was otherwise occupied. Maradona soon discovered that back in Argentina Bilardo was calling the shots.

"I’m in charge here, and I name the squad list," he declared on returning to the country, going on to suggest that there are changes just around the corner: "Let’s get past the qualifiers, and then we’ll see." The "we’ll see" was taken to be an unveiled threat that Maradona will demand Bilardo stick his nose into other people’s business, not his.

"If Diego wants me to go," Bilardo said, "then I’ll go."

Arriving in Cordoba for the Ghana match, Maradona quickly made it clear that he wasn’t going to talk about the argument. "Don’t ask me about Bilardo," he warned journalists. "I just sat next to him on the plane coming here, so don’t go asking me about any bullshit, alright?"

In the meantime, Grondona – The Boss – watches on. The AFA president was in Rio this week on business. "I don’t like change," he said, denying that he is thinking of sacking Maradona.

Rather than pointing out that his penchant for continuity has kept him in a job he landed a month before Margaret Thatcher became British prime minister, he chose a somewhat cosier point of reference: "I’ve been married to the same woman for 53 years."

Chez Grondona may be a sanctuary of domestic bliss, but how much longer The Bosse’s union with Big Nose and The Ten will last is anyone’s guess.

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