Diego Maradona on Monday returned to Italy for the first time in eight years in a bid to clear his name in a tax evasion case.
The 1986 World Cup winner with Argentina landed in Rome dressed in black and wearing dark glasses before heading to Naples, where he was to hold a news conference.
Maradona’s Italian debts of nearly 40 million euros (US$50 million) stem from alleged unpaid taxes during the time he played for SSC Napoli from 1984 to 1991, a period in which he helped them win their only two Serie A titles.
His lawyer, Angelo Pisani, recently said his client won the dispute, but the collection agency issued a statement earlier this month saying it had not “annulled, declared extinct, nor modified” Maradona’s debts.
Fellow passengers scrambled to get near the star when they recognized him as they disembarked the plane. One particular fan caught Maradona’s eye as he took a photo of him on a camera phone with a Juventus cover.
“When Juventus played against us they were always scared,” Maradona joked.
Dozens of supporters wearing Napoli colors turned up to greet their hero with songs about him from his playing days. Amid the frenzy, Maradona and Pisani were ushered by police into a car and drove to Naples’ Hotel Royal.
Maradona came out onto the balcony to wave to about 300 chanting fans. When they started singing “who doesn’t jump is a Juventus fan,” the 52-year-old Argentine immediately started jumping.
Maradona was reportedly to fly to Dubai late yesterday, but is to return to Naples for Friday’s match against title rival Juventus.