Diego Maradona confirmed as Gimnasia manager

Almost 25 years since his last managerial role in Argentina, Diego Maradona’s shock return with Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata has been confirmed.

Dario Ortiz departing Gimnasia last week having picked up a solitary point from the five fixtures this season and with the club rooted to the foot of the relegation table came as no real surprise. With El Lobo fighting the drop another of the usual suspects from Argentina’s managerial merry-go-round was expected to take up the challenge but instead Gimnasia have stunned the football world.

When initial reports linked the club with Diego Maradona it was disregarded as gossip, when his lawyer Matías Morla admitted talks and that it was 80% complete there remained skepticism. 

Even when Diego Maradona sent a personal message to the supporters of Gimnasia it was beyond belief and yet on Thursday afternoon, El Lobo made the announcement.

Maradona left his last role in June having failed to gain promotion with Ascenso MX side Dorados de Sinaloa. The 58-year-old was initially expected to remain in Mexico but due to poor health and subsequent operations on his knee, Maradona stepped down.

Eager to stress that he is now back on his feet in a short video posted a day before the confirmation with Gimnasia, Maradona had at the time denied any personal contact with the club but made his feelings towards the possibility of a return and the supporters very clear.

“I want to clarify that I did not receive or reject any proposal from Argentine teams, as they are saying. I had no official contact with any club. I am in good health and of course it would be an honour for me to manage in my country.”

Matias Morla had been in contact and spoke about Diego’s happiness at being considered for a job in Argentina after a long time away. 24 hours later, Maradona was confirmed.

And it has been a long time. Maradona’s brief spells in charge of Deportivo Mandiyú and Racing Club in 1994-95 are the World Cup winner’s only prior experience coaching in Argentina.

Time away from the game only saw Maradona return for the national team job in 2008 and after leaving that post following the 2010 World Cup exit, the great number ten has taken work in the UAE, a fleeting stint in Belarus and more recently Mexico.

“With his last two teams [Maradona] managed to consolidate a clear and competitive playing style which led to him challenging for promotion to the highest divisions of their respective leagues,” Gimnasia’s statement said.

“Welcome, Diego, to the most beautiful club in the world. We are happy to have you at Gimnasia.”

Maradona fell short in those previous promotion pushes and his task in La Plata is even greater. Keeping Gimnasia in the top flight will not be easy as coaches have come and gone over the past few seasons and been unable to improve results.

On the morning of Sunday September 15th, Gimnasia will welcome champions Racing to El Bosque and Maradona will be eager to make a good start. The players will be boosted by having such a legendary figure in the dugout but it remains to be seen over the course of the season whether Maradona has the tactical nous to oversee real change.

19 fixtures plus the Copa remain in the Superliga season and so while Maradona has until next year, there is little time to waste. The relegation battle already looked likely to go to the wire and things just got a great deal more interesing. Love him or loathe him – Maradona is compulsive viewing.

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