DIEGO MARADONA won’t be in Dublin for Ireland’s glamour friendly with Argentina after the Argentina FA’s executive committee last night opted not to renew his contract.
Under-20 boss Sergio Batista has been placed in temporary charge for the match against Ireland.
Maradona met with the AFA president Julio Grondona yesterday in a bid to resolve his future, with reports suggesting a new four-year deal was on the table. The 49-year-old had said he would sign the contract as long as his entire backroom staff were retained.
But the AFA wanted backroom changes and last night decided not to renew Maradona’s contract.
The AFA website read: “The president of the AFA, Julio Grondona, made the members of the executive committee aware of the conversation with Diego Maradona, setting out the points which had come out from the meeting. The executive committee unanimously resolved not to renew the contract with Diego Maradona.”
Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni, meanwhile, is counting on Ireland’s marquee names being in attendance for the glamour friendly against Argentina on August 11, naming a strong 28-man squad yesterday featuring Shay Given, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff et al, and it was the presence of the Donegal keeper that was the most newsworthy.
Given suffered a serious shoulder injury in the Premier League game against Arsenal in April but has made a quicker-than-expected recovery and is currently on tour with Man City.
However, there are already doubts over some of those named yesterday. Aiden McGeady, Kevin Foley, Marc Wilson and Andy Keogh are all injured despite being included in the squad.
Trapattoni has also acceded to a request from new U21 manager Noel King to avail of Cillian Sheridan and James McCarthy for their game against Estonia, the day before the Argentina tie. Eleven of those who reported for duty at the end-of-season training camp time are included again and Trapattoni is hoping that more fringe players can catch the eye.
He was encouraged by the attitude shown in those two essentially-meaningless fixtures although Ireland’s recent progress could be reevaluated somewhat in view of the French and Italian experiences at the World Cup.
Trapattoni begged to differ — “We could have achieved the quarter-finals,” he said — and the former Juventus boss also dismissed suggestions that his favoured 4-4-2 formation was exposed as being out-of-date by events in South Africa.
In many ways, then, it will be a case of same again for the trip to Yerevan in September and the remainder of the European Championship qualifiers.
Yet, change is in the offing, albeit at a slow pace. The continued presence of Kevin Kilbane in the squad is evidence of that but Trapattoni hinted that the Hull City 33-year old may have to adapt to more of a watching brief in the months to come.
The infusion of players like Paul Green and Greg Cunningham, added to the earlier emergence of men like Glenn Whelan and Darron Gibson, have also persuaded Trapattoni to continue with his laissez faire approach to the Jamie O’Hara saga.
“At the moment we have four in midfield. O’Hara, we also follow him. Obviously he must also say to us, (as did West Brom’s), Simon Cox ‘I wish to go with the national Irish’. I need players who do this.”
With Maradona gone, one man still coming to Dublin is Alessandro del Piero and his Juventus team who take on Shamrock Rovers tomorrow. Trapattoni says the Italians are wary. “People are asking ‘who is this Shamrock Rovers?’ I said be careful. They have respect for this team.”
Ireland squad: S Given, K Westwood, J Murphy, J O’Shea, R Dunne, S St Ledger, G Cunningham, K Foley, M Wilson, S Kelly, P McShane, D O’Dea, K Kilbane, K Andrews, G Whelan, D Gibson, P Green, L Lawrence, A McGeady, A Keogh, D Duff, K Fahey, K Treacy, C Sheridan, R Keane, K Doyle, C Folan, S Long.
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