Maradona axed

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BUENOS AIRES, July 28 – The Argentine Football Association (AFA) on Tuesday elected not to renew Diego Maradona's contract as national team coach, AFA spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo said.Doubts had surrounded the 49-year-old’s future ever since a tense meeting with AFA president Julio Grondona on Monday and newspapers had spent the day speculating on who would succeed the man who led the team to victory as star player at the 1986 World Cup.

"The president put some salient points to Maradona in their long conversation yesterday," Cherquis said.

"And the executive committee unanimously resolved not to renew Maradona’s contract as technical director of the national teams."

As an inexperienced coach, Maradona’s record over 18 months was less than stellar and the team only qualified for the World Cup finals by the skin of their teeth.

Although several players had spoken up for him after a run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, where Germany proved too strong, the AFA decided it was time to give the job to someone else.

Maradona’s often controversial tenure saw him use more than 100 players as he grappled with various formations.

"It’s official — Maradona is no longer the coach of the Argentine team," said La Nacion newspaper in its online edition.

One name in the frame to succeed him is Alejandro Sabella, who led Estudiantes to the Copa Libertadores last year.

Other potential candidates include Miguel Angel Russo (Racing Club) and Sergio Batista, currently in charge of the Argentine youth set-up and who helped steer the country to Olympic glory in the Beijing Games in 2008.

Fans reportedly have a soft spot for Carlos Bianchi, who has enjoyed success with Velez Sarsfield and Boca Juniors, but his chances are believed to be slim due to a poor relationship with Grondona.

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