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Oct 22, 2008

Bianchi favourite for Argentina job, Maradona linked

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Former Boca Juniors coach Carlos Bianchi has emerged as favourite for the vacant Argentina job while Diego Maradona, originally seen as an unlikely choice, is also in the running.

Bianchi, a quiet family man known as 'The Viceroy', has twice turned down the post in the past but local media said he had informally told the Argentine Football Association (AFA) that he would accept it this time.

Sergio Batista, who took the under-23 side to the Olympic gold medal in August, former captain Diego Simeone and Miguel Angel Russo are seen as the other main candidates to replace Alfio Basile.

Basile quit on Thursday, one day after his side lost 1-0 to Chile in a World Cup qualifier.

Bianchi, who won the Argentine championship four times and the Libertadores Cup three times in two stints with Boca, has shown up as the clear favourite in online polls run by Argentine newspapers.

Bianchi also won the Argentine championship and Libertadores with Velez Sarsfield before moving to Boca, although he had unsuccessful spells in charge of AS Roma and Atletico Madrid.

Currently working as a television commentator, Bianchi has remained publicly silent in stark contrast to Maradona who has given a plethora of interviews expressing his interest.

In his latest, Maradona told Radio La Red that Bianchi was the favourite.

''I know I don't have many chances because Carlos Bianchi is ahead of me in the polls, but the dream is intact,'' he said.

''To those who say that I don't have experience, I say that ... tactics are relative because the important thing is to have good players.''

Maradona's weak points are his explosive temperament and his lack of coaching experience, which is restricted to brief spells with Deportivo Mandiyu and Racing Club in the 1990s.

''I have the maximum respect for him but he hasn't done any background work, which is a basic necessity for coaches who aspire to the highest level,'' warned Jorge Valdano, Maradona's team mate in the 1986 World Cup winning team.

''It appears risky to me. It's difficult to land on your feet as coach of the national team.''

On the other hand, nobody can match Maradona's charisma or the respect he draws from the players.

Batista, another member of the 1986 team, remains a strong candidate. Russo's perceived lack of charisma has led to him slipping behind in the stakes while Simeone's hopes may be scuppered by the poor form of his club River Plate.

Beaten 1-0 at home to arch-rivals Boca Juniors on Sunday, River are 19th in the 20-team Argentine championship.

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