Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Maradona in Clinic in Italy to 'Lose Weight'

This isn't good for Argentina, no matter how it turns out. You don't want your national coach locked away in a "spa" for several days (or weeks?) less than a month ahead of two final and crucial World Cup qualifiers. No matter what it is he's trying to overcome -- weight gain, bad nerves ... drugs.

But there goes Diego Maradona, arguably the most inept coach in World Cup qualifying, considering Argentina's results under his stewardship and the talent available.

Reuters is reporting that Maradona is in a facility ("clinic" is so judgmental, don't you think?) in Northern Italy ... to lose five kilos -- or about 11 pounds.

Or is that monkey on his back something more sinister than an excess of avoirdupois?

Maradona has a history of drug abuse. It seems as if it almost killed him, a time or two. And we don't have to have a Ph.D in psychology to wonder if the enormous pressures that must be coming down on him, in Argentina, as the national team teeters on the brink of missing South Africa 2010 ... well, you wonder if that pressure might prompt him to find some consolation in chemicals he has abused in the past.

Apparently, we're not the only ones wondering about that.

So, today, we have a story that quotes his doctor as saying Maradona has not relapsed into drugs. Which we believe ... almost not at all.

Doesn't it seem as if dropping those 10-11 pounds could wait till after the Oct. 10 qualifier with Peru and the Oct. 14 match at Uruguay to go to a Fat Farm? Absolutely. And you don't need to go to northern Italy to escape Argentine fans and media. Has to be someplace right there in the country where a guy can sit on a beach (it's still summer, down there), turn off the cell phone, avoid newspapers and TV, instruct your security team to keep people away ... and chill out.

The upshot of this?

Diego must go. If he is at a point where he needs professional help right this minute ... it's time for Argentina to go to Plan B for these final two matches. Get a new coach. Admit Maradona was a mistake. And it's proving harmful both to him and Argentinian football.

It's late. But it's not too late.

Veteran coach Carlos Bilardo, who led Argentina from 1983 through the 1990 World Cup, already is with the team in a lesser capacity. His team won the 1986 World Cup and was runner-up in 1990. He could take over tomorrow. Bora Milutinovic is a phone call away. Leo Beenhaaker is out of work. Etc.

Point is, Argentina presumably can find a couple of dozen (make that a couple of hundred) coaches better suited than Diego Maradona to coaching Argentina in these last two qualifiers. Let Maradona extend his stay in northern Italy for as long as he wants. To lose some weight ... or beat some jones.

It will be better for everyone connected to Argentine soccer.

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