BUENOS AIRES - Olympic gold medal-winning
coach Sergio Batista was poised on Monday to succeed Diego
Maradona and lead Argentina to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Batista has been interim coach since Maradona was refused a
new contract after Argentina's humiliating 4-0 defeat by
Germany in this year's World Cup quarter-finals in South
Maradona, upset at being discarded, had a dig at his former
team mate in Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning side as he left
the country on a trip to China on Monday night.
"I was very proud to have trained (Lionel) Messi. With me
he was happy, don't you doubt it...I understood him like no-one
else," Maradona told reporters.
"If 'Checho' (Batista) says now that Messi's happy, it's
because he dressed up as a clown. 'Checho' can't make anyone
Batista has said that Messi, in his tactical formations, is
as comfortable as when he is playing for Barcelona and the
gifted forward has supported the coach in this.
Messi was often questioned by Argentines during the World
Cup qualifiers in 2008 and 2009 as to why he did not generally
reproduce his scintillating Barcelona form in Argentina's
Maradona said his 50th birthday on Saturday was the saddest
day of his life because he no longer had the Argentina team.
Batista, 47, was grilled on Monday by an Argentine Football
Association (AFA) selection committee and is expected to be
officially installed on Tuesday.
"The selection committee met at midday with technical
secretary Carlos Bilardo at the AFA and Sergio Batista was
called in to report on what has been done so far and his plans
for the future," AFA spokesman Andres Ventura said.
He told reporters outside the AFA's downtown headquarters
that the committee would report to AFA president Julio Grondona
and the board would make its decision.
Batista appears to be the sole candidate whereas local
media have speculated for weeks with other names, including
Estudiantes coach Alejandro Sabella.
Batista, who steered an Argentina side including Lionel
Messi and Javier Mascherano to the country's second successive
Olympic gold medal in Beijing in 2008, has a low profile that
contrasts with Maradona.
Maradona was at the centre of several controversies during
his 20 months in charge and refused to accept the AFA's wish to
include Batista on his coaching staff.
He lost the job over his loyalty to his World Cup
assistants Alejandro Mancuso and Hector Enrique after Grondona
made it a condition of his continuity that the pair should go.
Batista's first task if he is appointed will be to name a
squad to play arch-rivals Brazil in a friendly in Qatar on November
So far, he has presided over a 1-0 win over Ireland in
Dublin, a 4-1 victory against world champions Spain in Buenos
Aires and a 1-0 defeat in Japan, all in friendlies.
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