Chau, Diego: the end for El Diez

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He claimed the Argentina national team was a Rolls Royce in need of a service. He told journalists to suck it and keep sucking it. He said that if Obama was allowed to choose his backroom staff then so should he. He called up 108 players. He lost 6-1 to Bolivia. He told Pele to go back to the museum. He said that Pele ‘made his debut’ with a boy.

He took Ariel Garcé and Martín Palermo to the World Cup. He said the first three names on his teamsheet were Mascherano, Messi and Jonás Guttierez. He refused to train in the morning. He brought about the second international retirement of Juan Román Riquelme. He wound up FIFA, his bosses, the media, ex- and not-so-ex-players...

Say what you will about Maradona – and everybody is saying lots – but beyond it being utter mayhem from start to finish, there is one simple inescapable fact: neither Basile, nor Passarella, nor Bielsa, nor Pekerman performed better at a World Cup. None went further than the quarter-finals. Perhaps the problem with Argentine football is not just to do with the coaches...

Maradona opened himself up for criticism, he created several previously non-existent battles and his eccentric decisions were laughed at outside Argentina, making the blood-letting - now that AFA have chosen not to renew his contract as Argentina coach - all the easier.

NEWS Maradona dropped as Argentina coach

The initial rumours seemed to suggest that Maradona would stay on despite the embarrassing result with Germany in South Africa, but in Argentine football realpolitik it was just another manoeuvre.

It's convenient and easy to say with absolute certainty that with a more experienced coach Argentina would have reached, at least, the final four in South Africa. That may well be, but it gives whoever replaces Maradona the job of proving all those Diego critics right. The core of Maradona’s side is young enough to remain for a number of years to come.

For now the two front-runners - according to the decision-makers at the AFA - are Estudiantes coach Alejandro Sabella and Racing coach Miguel Angel Russo.

Amongst fans, the Boca contingent still want the Viceroy, Carlos Bianchi, to be given a chance. Ramón Díaz features high up in the surveys, thanks to his success at River. Diego Simeone’s name has also been mentioned, perhaps more by virtue of being unemployed right now, and then come the rest.

Whoever comes in could follow a similar route paved by Mano Menezes this week. The new Brazil boss axed all but four players from the South Africa group in his first squad. Such wholesale change perhaps isn’t needed for Argentina. The likes of Sergio Romero, Nicolás Otamendi (the Germany result wasn't his fault), Mascherano, Di María, Pastore, Tevez, Higuaín, Agüero and Messi will all be key players for the coming years.

NEWS Menezes makes big changes for first game

With the immediate task being winning next year’s Copa America on home turf, and then mounting a serious challenge for the 2014 World Cup next door in Brazil, whoever comes in should invest confidence in a new crop of players that will be of age in four years time.

For Argentina’s next outing, against Ireland in Dublin on August 11, we’ll have a side chosen by Maradona – naming the squad was his last act in charge – and coached by Under-20 boss Sergio Batista.

It’s only after that when perhaps we will start to see the new-look Argentina. Perhaps it will be more competitive. Perhaps it will play better football. Perhaps it will play worse. Perhaps they will challenge for honours. Perhaps they will end up returning home after the first phase of the 2014 World Cup. Perhaps they will return with the trophy.

Whatever happens over the coming weeks and months, it won’t be the same round here anymore. Chau Diego.

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