Buenos Aires: One of Diego Maradona`s assistants wants him to stay, and a top Argentine football official said the job is his despite the team`s devastating 4-0 loss against Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals.
"Knowing Diego, it is difficult for me to think he wants to step down after failing in his objective to win the Cup," assistant coach Alejandro Mancuso said in a radio interview yesterday. "We can`t throw away all the good work we`ve done."
Mancuso added that the coaching staff also wanted Maradona to continue.
Maradona has not made his plans clear following Argentina`s second straight loss to Germany in a World Cup quarter-final on Saturday, but talked of "the end of a cycle" when the squad returned home from South Africa.
Cronica newspaper yesterday quoted Maradona as saying, "I gave all I had. Now I want to enjoy my family. Don`t worry, I`m not depressed."
Argentine Football Association senior official Luis Segura said Maradona`s contract has a clause that triggers an automatic extension through to the Copa America, which Argentina hosts next year.
"The one who will have to decide to continue or not is Maradona," Segura said in an interview.
Argentina President Cristina Fernandez offered encouragement while speaking yesterday in Buenos Aires.
"Bear up Maradona, the team and also bear up Argentina," Fernandez said. "No Argentine has ever given so much joy on the field as Diego Armando Maradona."
Fernandez also invited the team to the Casa Rosada, which is vaguely equivalent to the White House in the United States.
"We are proud of what they did and we are finished crying because we`ve begun to prepare for 2014," she said.
Maradona will have to make his decision known in a meeting with AFA president Julio Grondona, who appointed Maradona to the job in October 2008. Grondona is reported to be in South Africa and it is not clear when the meeting will take place.
Maradona`s spell with the national team has been up and down.
Argentina struggled to qualify for the World Cup, absorbing embarrassing losses against Bolivia (6-1) and Brazil (3-1). But the team seemed on course in South Africa for a third World Cup title after group-stage wins against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.
It defeated Mexico 3-1 in the round of 16, leading Maradona to boast about the team`s scoring prowess. Then came the humiliating loss on Saturday to Germany, which again led many to question Maradona`s tactical knowledge.
Though 20,000 fans greeted the team`s arrival on Sunday, an on-line poll by the newspaper Clarin showed 63.1 percent wanted Maradona to quit. Other polls showed similar results.
The last major title for Argentina was the Copa America in 1993. The team won the World Cup in 1978 and `86.