Four more years for sharp suited Diego?

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Four years ago, Jose Mourinho was in charge at Chelsea, Tony Blair was British Prime Minister, Esteban Cambiasso had hair, Leo Messi was an unused substitute and Carlos Tevez was playing his club football in Brazil.

A vuvuzela, meanwhile, sounded like a rare species of antelope only seen with David Attenborough’s accompanying whispery voice.

By the time the next World Cup swings around in four years time, there will have been just as many seismic managerial and political changes, players will have changed their look, made a name for themselves and changed club allegiances several times over. And of course, there will be a fresh set of annoying plastic gimmicks to prize money from punters’ pockets.

But also come Brazil 2014, in normal circumstances we should be reminiscing about that grey suit, that greying beard, those taps on the bum, the pre-match kisses and the Pelé-baiting with nostalgia.

The Diego Maradona era as Argentina coach should be a sepia-tinged memory.

These are not normal circumstances, however, for the simple reason that AFA and Diego Maradona are involved.

Leading a chaotic, controversial and almost disastrous qualifying campaign wasn’t enough. He had time to prove everyone wrong. An eccentric squad selection, last-minute tactical dabbling and whimsical demands for creature comforts wasn’t even enough. The critics waited for the fall, which under Maradona, duly came in the form of a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Germany.

Yet despite that defeat, the fingers are not pointing at Diego. And rather than someone else taking the blame, there are simply no fingers pointing, and Maradona retains his position centre stage.

In the aftermath of the World Cup exit, first came the brazen idea of one Argentine politician, who is more often associated with human- and workers’- rights campaigning than meddling in sporting matters, to suggest that now, just weeks after the World Cup exit, was the time for a statue of Maradona.

In some years time there will, rightly and deservedly, be a bronze effigy of Diego Armando Maradona in Argentina. But after a humiliating exit from football‘s biggest stage, which doctors have had to deny has sent the coach back to the drugs, hardly seems an appropriate moment.

Next up came Julio Grondona, AFA president, who via his spokesman announced that there is a four-year contract offer on the table for Maradona. Sure, Diego will have to explain what happened in South Africa and come up with a plan for the next few years, but the offer is there to take.

Leo Messi, Sergio Romero, Martín Palermo and Gabriel Heinze all want Maradona to stay (although in the case of the last two its fairly obvious that a change in coach would signal an end to their time in blue and). Angel Di Maria was one player who admitted he didn’t feel comfortable in the role Maradona played him in at the World Cup, and Veron Snr blamed Maradona for Veron Jr failing to perform in South Africa.

While opinion is divided on whether Maradona should carry on, there will be no developments till next week. The meeting between Maradona and Grondona will happen ‘not after Wednesday and not before Tuesday’ in the strangely-chosen words of AFA.

With commitments – i.e. dollar-generating friendlies – just on the horizon, however, a deal should be brokered soon. Maradona will make fresh demands regarding the make up of his back room staff, meaning Grondona may finally have to budge over the addition of Oscar Ruggeri to the set up.

While the prospect of Maradona coaching Argentina at a World Cup in Brazil is just too tempting for the polemicists and marketing people out there, it still doesn’t address the real issues.

Germany highlighted the deficiencies in Argentine football – from the physical and tactical, to the technical.

Changing coach will change relatively little. Argentine football requires a revolution in terms of organisation, in terms of priorities, in terms of coaching and in terms of its philosophy to avoid a repeat of the 2010 World Cup performance.

Maradona is not the sole reason for the embarrassing performances in South Africa, even if he didn’t exactly help things. Maradona is, however, the perfect fall guy to deflect criticism away from AFA.

Failure at next years Copa America would be a bridge too far for him to stay on, but avoiding that, don’t be surprised to see Maradona in a sharp suit at Brazil 2014. More to read...

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