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Adios: Maradona out as Argentina's soccer coach

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Diego Maradona is out as Argentina's soccer coach, his stay ending after nearly two years on the job and a humiliating exit in the World Cup quarterfinals.

The Argentine Football Association said Tuesday it would not renew his contract. The federation had offered Maradona a four-year contract through the 2014 World Cup, but Maradona said he would do so only if his entire staff remained.

That was unacceptable to Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona. He had asked for several assistants to be replaced. One of them was Maradona's close friend Alejandro Mancuso. The federation said its executive committee unanimously decided to not keep Mardona.

Possible successors include two club coaches in Argentina: Alejandro Sabella of Estudiantes and Miguel Russo of Racing. The federation, however, would likely need to hire an interim coach for the Aug. 11 exhibition game against Ireland in Dublin.

The decision comes 21 months after Maradona began his erratic coaching term and a little more than three weeks after Argentina was eliminated in the World Cup in South Africa with a 4-0 loss to Germany.

The 49-year-old Maradona became Argentina's coach in November 2008, replacing Alfio Basile and taking over a team he led to the 1986 World Cup title. His results were mixed. He had little coaching experience, and his team absorbed two of the worst losses in the country's history: a 6-1 rout at Bolivia in World Cup qualifying and the recent World Cup defeat to Germany.

Argentina played with attacking flair in South Africa, with Lionel Messi setting up scoring strikes by Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez. Maradona, dressed on the sideline in a gray suit, was an enthusiastic cheerleader, but that could not compensate for his team's deficiencies. The loss to Germany exposed Argentina's frailties on defense and lack of midfield speed.

Messi, widely regarded as the game's best player, left with World Cup without scoring a goal. Maradona never explained why Messi -- he was left to roam the field on his own -- wasn't scoring.

"Nobody ever told me where to play. So I shouldn't have to tell Messi where to play, either," Maradona said.

Maradona is a fabled figure in Argentina who has fought off cocaine and alcohol addiction. He grew up in a Buenos Aires slum, and his escape from poverty has endeared him to many. But he has worn out his welcome in other quarters.

Maradona ruffled the government of President Cristina Fernandez, who twice invited the coach to meet with her. But cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said Maradona failed to respond or answer the phone, forcing the president's secretaries to leave messages.