BUENOS AIRES - Argentina's football chief Julio Grondona hinted strongly on Friday he was seeking the return of estranged playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme to Diego Maradona's troubled national team. "The other day, I went into a locksmith's and I may have found the key to open the door," Argentine Football Association president Grondona told Fox Sports cable TV in an interview. Riquelme, a key member of the Argentina side that reached the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals, quit the team in March over remarks he perceived as critical of his playing style made by Maradona in the media. He made his decision just days before Maradona, who took charge late last year, named his first squad for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers after Riquelme had missed friendly wins against Scotland and France. Argentina, without Riquelme, have taken six points in four qualifiers under Maradona although his two defeats came at high altitude, in particular a 6-1 drubbing by Bolivia in La Paz in April. They are fourth in the South American standings, the last of the automatic berths for the finals in South Africa, and next face leaders and arch-rivals Brazil at home in September. Riquelme has often divided opinion among Argentine fans and media, many of whom say he slows the team down. Others admire his languid, passing style. Grondona, who played big part in Riquelme's return in 2007 from Villarreal to Boca Juniors, where he could play regularly in the build-up to the World Cup, said it was a mere spat with Maradona, predicting: "I'm sure things will soon get back to normal."
19 June 2009
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