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Jul 29, 2010

'Betrayed' Maradona lashes out at AFA

Outgoing Argentina coach Diego Maradona has launched a sensational attack on AFA president Julio Grondona and director of national teams Carlos Bilardo, claiming he was "lied to" and "betrayed" and effectively sacked from the role.

• Maradona leaves post

Maradona left the role on Monday after the AFA board demanded he replace many of his backroom staff if he was to continue as coach until the 2014 World Cup. Maradona claimed that was an ultimatum Grondona knew he would not agree to and that it was therefore a way to force him out of the job.

Maradona read out a statement to reporters, saying: "Grondona lied to me. Bilardo betrayed me. Having recovered from the sadness of the elimination, we were all ready to go on, knowing that we would have much more time to work.

"After the elimination, Grondona told me in dressing room that he was very happy with my work and wanted me to continue. There were witnesses and players there. When we were back in Argentina, things became darker. On Monday, I met Grondona and after five minutes he told me he wanted me to continue, but seven of my staff should not go on. If he told me that, it meant he did not want me to keep working.

"He knows that it would be impossible for me to continue if my assistants didn't continue too. I defend all of them. Maybe some of the people who made this decision thought I would betray them. Maybe it was because they would betray their assistants if they were me. But I will not do that.''

Maradona was appointed in October 2008 to succeed Alfio Basile, who quit amid a difficult campaign in the World Cup qualifiers and a strained relationship with the players. He narrowly secured qualification but defied many of his critics at the World Cup before crashing out to Germany 4-0 in the quarter-finals. Maradona, whose accusations are particularly striking given Bilardo was the national coach when he starred in Argentina's 1986 World Cup win, said he had wanted four years to work with the players up to the 2014 tournament.

"We took over one and a half years ago, in the middle of the qualifying campaign, with internal problems and a divided group of players,'' he said. "We took over knowing that we should transmit the pride of wearing the Argentina shirt. We made good and bad decisions. After some self-analysis, we know what we did right and what things we should improve.

"Since 1990, the national team have not got past the quarter-finals. Several coaching staffs have worked and nobody has achieved that. Something is being done wrong because our players succeed all around the world at their clubs. Some things are done badly and there is no will to change them.''

Estudiantes boss Alejandro Sabella, who assisted Argentina boss Daniel Passarella in the 1998 World Cup, and Racing Club coach Miguel Angel Russo are reported to be the candidates to succeed Maradona.

"Whoever takes over, he has to know treason is close. Some people here do not love Argentinian football. They take care only of their personal interests and bank accounts,'' Maradona said.

"You know all I did for the Argentina shirt. I gave everything for it. I'm sure Argentinian football deserves to be in a better position. I know the players felt the pride of wearing the shirt again, after a long time. Maybe that was my duty here. I am content for having transmitted the pride of being Argentinian.''

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