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Diego Maradona criticism doesn't bother me - Jorge Sampaoli

Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli refused to comment on Wednesday on the harsh assessment of his abilities made by former Argentina coaches Diego Maradona and Carlos Bilardo.

The two said Sampaoli, reported to be the preferred choice of the country's football association to move into the vacant position, is not the "right man" to guide the national team.

Sampaoli announced last week he had an offer to guide Argentina but would only consider it once the La Liga season is over.

When asked about Maradona and Bilardo's comments, Sampaoli said in Wednesday's news conference as reported in Marca: "Those are opinions of people who are in football.

"I have nothing to say. I fear a lot talking about the future because we have a lot to do right now." 

The Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia announced on Tuesday that his federation has unanimously chosen Edgardo Bauza's successor but refused to name their choice "out of respect."

Bauza was dismissed on April 10 after eight months in charge with Argentina's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in jeopardy.

Tapia told Fox Sports: "We know who the next national team coach will be. The decision has been taken.

"There is a unanimous decision between the executives, but we are respectful because we have to wait for the contractual commitments."

Former Chile coach Sampaoli took the reins at Sevilla last summer and then turned down the opportunity to coach Argentina in August after Gerardo Martino stepped down.

Asked about Sampaoli, Maradona, who coached Argentina from 2008 until 2010, told Radio Rivadavia: "I think the situation with Sampaoli seems inflated. I thought it very strange that he didn't resolve the situation in Chile where he was having a great career while at Sevilla he is not setting the world on fire. I think he is among the candidates but I don't think he is the right one.

"There is a lot of talk about the need to renovate the national team and I don't think Sampaoli has the feeling or the touch with the players to do so."

Bilardo, who coached Maradona in Argentina's team that won the World Cup in 1986, does not believe Sampaoli has the quality to guide the Albiceleste.

When asked about Sampaoli, Bilardo recently said as reported in Marca: "Talk to me about serious coaches but not about a fourth-class one."

Sampaoli led Chile to win the Copa America in 2015 by beating Argentina on penalties in the final before departing in January 2016 to seek an experience in Europe.

He joined Sevilla last summer and with four games remaining, the La Liga club is fourth in La Liga and looking to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Sampaoli is under contract with Sevilla until June 2018 but can leave this summer provided his €1.5 million release clause is met. Sevilla sporting director Oscar Arias said Sampaoli is only focused on the task at hand.

"I can assure you that our coach is totally involved and committed to the day to day," he said in a news conference. "Sampaoli is the Sevilla coach, he is under contract, and to speak of something else would not apply.

"In any case, Sevilla has amply proved that it knows to react regarding situations where changes happen.

"When the situation comes, we will approach it but for the time being Sampaoli has a contract with us."

Sampaoli had high words of praise for fellow Argentine Lionel Messi's performance for Barcelona in the Clasico this past weekend.

"I have always said that he is a genius," Sampaoli said. "He can change the outcome of a match.

"But in the Clasico, Leo was unusual. I was very happy for him because he deserved that. To have a player like that keeps coaches in business longer because coaching is a profession on which results depend."

Sevilla can go level on 68 points with third-place Atletico Madrid if they win at home to Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Atletico hold the last direct Champions League qualifying spot.

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.


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