Diego Maradona will remain Argentina coach after denying speculation on Thursday that he planned to resign because of a dispute over his assistants with his boss.
“I’m still the coach. There’s been no changes, no resignations, nothing,’’ Maradona told journalists in Mar del Plata, where he was visiting the Argentina tennis team preparing for next week’s Davis Cup final against Spain.
“Things are the same as they always were,” Maradona said.
Officially appointed coach only last week, Maradona reportedly said he would quit before or after his first match in charge next week, a friendly in Scotland, as he was furious at Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona for not allowing him to freely appoint the remaining members of his coaching staff.
Team manager Carlos Bilardo had assured reporters on Wednesday that the soccer great would remain coach, but he acknowledged there was tension between Maradona and Grondona over the coach’s appointment of Oscar Ruggeri as his assistant.
“The president of the federation is in charge and the head of the coaching staff is Maradona,” Bilardo said. “Maradona has to choose the coaching staff. These things are always discussed to try and reach an agreement.’’
Maradona made no mention of the disagreement on Thursday.
Ruggeri was Maradona’s teammate when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup but Grondona has publicly expressed his disapproval of Ruggeri as Maradona’s assistant, saying he prefers Sergio Batista and Jose Luis Brown — the coach and assistant of Argentina’s Youth side.
Batista and Brown were initially named as the assistants by Grondona, but Maradona said when he was confirmed as coach on Nov. 4 that he would pick his own staff.
Maradona said Ruggeri can teach the players the expertise he gained as a leading defender during three World Cups.
Grondona has made no attempt to hide his disdain when asked about Ruggeri, saying late on Wednesday that he didn’t want him on the staff because “I don’t like the look of him.’’
Ruggeri has publicly criticized Grondona, also a FIFA vice president.
In October last year, Ruggeri said Grondona should “leave the Argentine federation and just go home,” and recently called him an “old man” unfit to run the powerful organization.
AFA member Noray Nakis echoed Grondona’s doubts on Wednesday.
“After the statements by Ruggeri, coming to work with us here, I don’t know,” he told Buenos Aires-based Mitre radio.
Ruggeri tried to rise above the controversy on Thursday.
“I don’t have words to thank Maradona. I’m dying to be there on the inside,” Ruggeri told Buenos Aires-based radio station La Red.
He said he wouldn’t back down from the heated dispute, confident he would be able to convince Grondona he’s the right man for the job. But Ruggeri said his pending appointment would be decided after Maradona returns from Scotland.
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