Argentina's prima donna

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

When you are a legend in soccer, you pretty much get what you want.

It's the only explanation for Argentina's appointment of a drug addict, tax truant (last time he was in Naples he had to cough up two Rolex watches) and someone with a self-destructive personality as its national team's new manager.

Harsh? Hardly. That's reality.

Why Argentina would turn the reigns of their national team over to Diego Maradona when there are so many more qualified individuals is almost mind boggling.

There should be no fear that Argentina will have any problem qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, despite recent mediocre performances. But if Maradona remains the manager, who knows what kind of condition the team will be in when the big show begins.

Maradona probably is one of the five best soccer players who has laced a pair of football boots. He led Argentina to a World Cup triumph in 1986, putting together a string of stunning games.

But he has produced as much controversy off the field as he has produced magic on the field. Aside from his addiction and weight problems, he has lived an undisciplined and selfish life, a life without boundaries. How does he control a star-studded team replete with egos? How does he ask sacrifices of them when he has made so few in his own?

Respect as a football player is much different than respect as a manager. Maradona is beyond taking a ball at his feet and dribbling through an entire team to deposit a ball in the net. That's long gone.

He'll have to earn respect this time around with his brain, his knowledge of the game and his ability to connect with his players.

A couple of poor selections and results and the rumblings about Maradona's inability to grasp the technical aspect of the game will start fresh.

Maradona has tried his hand at managing before. The result was less than inspiring. And what happens when Maradona does something or says something inappropriate, adding pressure to a side that already is under enormous pressure.

Remember that Maradona is reviled in many places, not only for how he has lived his life, but also for his actions on the field.

Many dislike him for cheating in that famous 1986 World Cup when he scored a goal with his hand in helping Argentina defeat England in a quarter-final match.

Sergio Batista -- who coaches the Argentina under-20 team as well as guiding the Olympic side -- was tabbed as the man to take over the national team.

But Maradona must have someone with significant pull in the Argentinian soccer association to have pulled this magic trick.

There are signs that not everyone is convinced that Maradona is the right man for the job. The Argentinian FA has appointed Carlos Bilardo as the technical director on Maradona's staff. Bilardo was the coach of Argentina's 1986 and 1990 team. It's a sign they want someone who actually has the tactical ability to manage a team, looking over Maradona's shoulder. If Maradona is a full-blown disaster, they don't have to look far for someone to bail him, and them, out.


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