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Maradona's 'betrayal and liar' claims dismissed

sports Updated: Jul 29, 2010 23:17 IST

Argentina football chief Julio Grondona and team manager Carlos Bilardo have rejected accusations of deceit and betrayal levelled at them by sacked coach Diego Maradona.

Maradona blamed the pair for plotting his downfall in an emotional outburst on Wednesday.

"Grondona lied to me. Bilardo betrayed me," Maradona claimed, 24 hours after his colourful and controversial reign as Argentina coach came to an abrupt end.

Bilardo on Thursday dismissed the claims of the man who was part of his 1986 World Cup-winning team.

"I am sure it's not him who is guilty, but his entourage. I defended and I will continue to defend Maradona to the death," he told La Red radio station.

In his first public reaction to his dismissal Maradona had told a press conference that Grondona had assured him his job was safe after the 4-0 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Germany.

"He (Grondona) came up to me in the dressing room after we had been knocked out of the World Cup in South Africa, told me in front of witnesses and the players that he was very happy with my work and that he wanted me to carry on," Maradona said.

"On our return to Argentina, things started to take a bizarre twist and on Monday I met with Grondona.

"After five minutes, he told me that he wanted me to continue, but that seven of my technical staff could not stay. When he told me this, he was saying that he didn't want me to carry on in the job.

"He knows that it is impossible for me to stay without my assistants."

Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Grondona, however, disputed Maradona's version of their conversation in South Africa.

"I continue to regret that he's gone because it's very sad but I never lied to Maradona," he said.

"I told him in Pretoria that I was satisfied and that he could stay on, but that the conditions would not be the same, that he had to make some vital changes."

Bilardo was singing from the same hymn sheet as Grondona, telling Maradona: "The AFA is a serious business, you can't invite your mates to come to your place of work... Diego had everything that he wanted, he could turn up with whoever he wanted, up to the goalkeeping coach."

Maradona, who took charge in October 2008, has been replaced for the time being by under-20 coach Sergio Batista, who will lead the team for the August 11 friendly against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

With Maradona gone, focus has turned on the identity of his long-term successor. One name in the frame is Alejandro Sabella, 55, who led Estudiantes to the Copa Libertadores last year.

Other potential candidates include Miguel Angel Russo of Racing Club as well as Batista, who helped steer the country to Olympic glory in the Beijing Games in 2008.