Maradona: I was betrayed
Argentina - An emotional Diego Maradona, looking to be close to tears, said he was betrayed as Argentina coach by national team director Carlos Bilardo and lied to by Julio Grondona, the president of the Argentine Football Association.
Diego Maradona (AP)
Speaking one day after the Argentine Football Association declined to renew his contract, Maradona claimed on Wednesday that Bilardo worked deviously to get rid of him and that Grondona had previously said he was happy with his work.
Argentina was beaten 4-0 by Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals in South Africa.
"They called me to put out a fire, and we put it out," Maradona said. "Grondona lied to me. Bilardo betrayed me. While we were still in mourning (the loss to Germany), Bilardo worked in the shadows to throw me out.
"My technical team and I were prepared to keep going," he added. "Grondona, in the changing room in South Africa, said in front of witnesses that he was very happy with my work and wanted me to continue. But back in Argentina things started to change."
Bilardo was the coach of Argentina and Maradona its star player when the team won the World Cup in 1986.
The AFA had said several weeks ago that it planned to offer him a new four-year deal, and Maradona said Grondona asked him in a meeting on Monday to continue but without seven of his assistants. Maradona said he could not meet those conditions.
Grondona, replying after Maradona spoke, said he had not lied to the famous No. 10.
"I continue being sorry that he has gone because it's very sad," Grondona said. "But I did not lie to Maradona. I told Maradona that I was content with him, that he had to continue. What he misinterpreted was that the conditions weren't the same."
Maradona read from a prepared script for about 10 minutes in a restaurant in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ezeiza. And despite a room packed with reporters and family members - including his two daughters - he took no questions.
The 49-year-old Maradona replaced Alfio Basile as Argentina coach 21 months ago. He suggested he didn't have enough time to make changes, noting that Argentina had failed to get past the World Cup quarterfinals for the fifth straight time.
Argentina has some of the best players in the world, including forwards Lionel Messi of Barcelona, Carlos Tevez of Manchester City and Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid.
"The team is made up of mostly young players with immense futures," Maradona said. "They can dream big and beautifully."
Maradona didn't mention Argentina youth team manager Sergio Batista, who will be the interim coach for the Aug. 11 friendly at Ireland. There is also a Sept. 7 friendly at River Plate stadium against world champion Spain.
Possible permanent successors include two club coaches in Argentina: Alejandro Sabella of Estudiantes and Miguel Russo of Racing.
Maradona, a national icon who divides opinion, was hired by Grondona despite having little coaching experience. Some thought he was out-coached by Germany's Joachim Loew, who identified Argentina's defensive frailties and lack of midfield speed.
Maradona gave no hint of his future plans.
"I've given everything. Everything," Maradona said, ending his speech. "I am convinced that Argentine football needs to be in a better position. I have tried to transmit the pride that I feel, being Argentine."
Argentina President Cristina Fernandez was "sad" about Maradona's departure and planned to meet with him, her office said.