On the eve of Argentina’s key elimination round match with Mexico, Diego Maradona provided his thoughts to the Milan sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport. He discussed the shock exit of Italy, his desire to manage Argentina for many years and his dream job: manager of Napoli. He also leveled criticism at Argentine journalists who questioned his management acumen.
On Italy: “But one saw that Italy was lacking something.”
“Mi dispiace tanto che l’Italia sia uscita, perchè in un Mondiale una squadra come quella azzurra non può fermarsi nella prima fase. Ma si vedeva che all’Italia mancava qualcosa, in particolare non portava palla in avanti, e non giocava fluida. Ci sarebbe voluto un giocatore come Totti o Del Piero. Cassano? Sì, forse anche lui, ma non voglio fare critiche a Lippi“.
“I’m so sorry that Italy went out. But in a World Cup, a team such as the Azzurri can’t stop in the first round. But one saw that Italy was lacking something. In particular, they didn’t hold the ball up front and didn’t play fluidly. They could have used a player such as Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero. Antonio Cassano? Yes, perhaps also him, but I don’t want to criticize Marcello Lippi.”
Wants to Manage Napoli: “Seeing that dreams never die.”
“Spero di allenare l’Argentina ancora per molti anni, ma poi vorrei realizzare un altro sogno, visto che i sogni non muoiono mai: allenare il Napoli… Ho vissuto in Italia sette anni, che essendo stato a Napoli significano 14 e porterò sempre quella gente nel mio cuore. Lo so che adesso che l’Italia è eliminata, i napoletani tiferanno per l’Argentina. Per questo li porterò sempre nel cuore e, anche se altri lo fanno, io non parlerò mai male della loro città“.
“I hope to manage Argentina still for many years but I would like to realize another dream. Seeing that dreams never die: To manage Napoli (in the Serie A)… I lived in Italy for seven years and having been in Naples, it was more like 14 years and I will always keep those people in my heart. I know that now since Italy was eliminated, the Neapolitans will support Argentina. For this, I will always keep them in my heart and even if others do it, I will never speak badly about their city.”
Still at War with Journalists: “But I don’t support how my players have been treated…”
“Ho quasi 50 anni e sono in una fase della vita in cui non si porta rancore. Però non sopporto come sono stati trattati i miei giocatori e vorrei che certi giornalisti chiedessero scusa. Prima di questo Mondiale ho letto critiche molti forti. Certi calciatori erano diventati i peggiori del mondo e non avrei dovuto chiamarli. Ora invece, dopo tre partite, siamo diventati i più belli del quartiere. In realtà siamo rimasti sempre quelli, e con la stessa idea di venire qui al Mondiale e fare bene lavorando duro“.
“I’m almost 50 years of age and in a phase of life in which you don’t want to hold grudges. But I don’t support how my players have been treated and I would have liked that certain journalists apologized. Before this World Cup, I read very strong criticisms. Certain players were becoming the worst in the world and I shouldn’t have selected them. Instead now, after three games, we have become the best of the lot. In reality, we have remained that way with the same idea to come here to the World Cup to do well working hard.”
Italian source: La Gazzetta dello Sport, June 26, 2010.
Cult Status in Naples
Maradona has a cult status in Naples to a degree that is difficult to describe. As they say in Naples, “There is the sea, Vesuvius and Maradona.” If you ever meet a young man in his 20s from Naples called “Diego,” most likely he was named after Mr. Maradona.
Steve Amoia is a freelance writer, editor and translator from Washington, D.C. He writes the World Football Commentaries blog. He has written for AC Cugini Scuola Calcio (Italian soccer school), Football Media, Keeper Skool and Soccerlens.