Football great Diego Maradona returns to Argentine club as new coach

Argentine soccer legend and 1986 World Cup winner Diego Maradona joined Argentine club Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata as their new coach on Thursday.

By signing the deal with the club, Maradona returns to coaching in his home country for the first time since 2010. Confirming the news in a short statement, the club said, "Star of world football, Diego Armando Maradona, has signed his name and is the new coach of Gimnasia. The deal runs until the end of the current season."

Meanwhile, the 1986 FIFA World Cup-winning captain wrote in a social media post, "Finally, now it's official. I'm very happy to be the new coach of Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata. I want to thank president Gabriel Pellegrino for this opportunity, and tell all the fans that we will work with soul and life for the wolf. A hug and thank you very much."

The soccer icon, who coached Argentina's national team in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, most recently coached in Mexico, where he led second division side Dorados of Sinaloa to two unsuccessful playoff appearances. He never coached in Argentina since the national team’s disastrous early exit in the quadrennial tournament.

Dorados coach Diego Maradona during a match of his previous team in Mexico, May 5, 2019. /VCG Photo

Dorados coach Diego Maradona during a match of his previous team in Mexico, May 5, 2019. /VCG Photo

His new club, from the city of La Plata just outside Buenos Aires, was founded in 1887 and is believed to be the oldest professional football club in the Americas. However, the struggling side hardly tasted success in recent decades as their only professional title since the 1990s was the Copa Centenario in 1993. At present, the club is languishing at the bottom of the first division table, with just one point from five matches.

The announcement was greeted by hundreds of jubilant fans, who turned up at the club on Thursday to welcome Maradona.

The 58-year-old's earlier stints as club coach in Argentina were at Mandiyu and Racing in the 1990s. Since leaving football in the mid-nineties, Maradona has been in hospital many times, including in 2004 when he was hospitalized with severe heart and respiratory problems linked to cocaine use. He later underwent drug rehabilitation in Cuba and Argentina before a stomach-stapling operation in 2005 helped him lose weight. He resigned from his previous club Dorados in June for health reasons.

(Cover image from VCG)