World Cup greats turn to punditry point-scoring
Paris: The World Cup`s greatest players may not be able to go on playing for ever, but that doesn`t stop them seeking to score points from the sidelines.
The current tournament in South Africa has seen legends from yesteryear queueing up to fire barbs in various directions, with Pele, Diego Maradona and Franz Beckenbauer leading the way.
Pele and Maradona have long endured a topsy-turvy relationship, helped in no small part by their competing claims to be considered the greatest player the game has ever seen.
The Brazilian great threw the first punch in their latest spat, by claiming his 49-year-old rival had not been motivated by entirely pure considerations when he accepted to coach Argentina.
"Maradona accepted the job as he needed work and needed the money," said Pele, a World Cup winner in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
"I saw how Argentina qualified with difficulty. But it is not Maradona`s fault; it is the fault of those who put him in charge."
Maradona, who was appointed national boss despite a lack of coaching experience in November 2008, told the 69-year-old he should "go back to the museum".
The controversial character also claimed that a "dark gentleman" -- taken to mean Pele -- had questioned the ability of the host nation to be the first African country to organize a World Cup.
Pele has not been swayed by Argentina`s run to the quarter-finals, where they will face Germany, and returned to the theme of Maradona`s coaching credentials, pinpointing his previous battles with weight problems and cocaine addiction as potential negative influences on his players.
"He is not a good coach, because he had a bizarre lifestyle that cannot go down well with his team," Pele told German magazine 11Freunde.
Beckenbauer, a World Cup winner as both player (1974) and coach (1990) with Germany, ruffled feathers in England with a critical assessment of Fabio Capello`s side.
`Der Kaiser` suggested that England had returned to the dark days of `kick and rush` football under the Italian, before issuing a retraction on the eve of the last-16 encounter between the countries.
"Maybe it was a reaction because I was disappointed (with England`s performances) and maybe in a bad mood," said Beckenbauer, who had the last laugh as Germany inflicted a memorable 4-1 defeat on the English.
France hero Zinedine Zidane, star of the 1998 World Cup-winning side, also dipped his toes in the water by criticising national boss Raymond Domenech after Les Bleus` disappointing 0-0 draw with Uruguay in their opening game.
"It is necessary to say things," said Zidane, who was sent off for headbutting Italy`s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final in Berlin.
"That is to say he (Domenech) is not a coach. I think he selects the players and hopes that at one point they will gel."