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The Maradona love story continues...

sports Updated: Jul 15, 2010 22:23 IST

Agencies
Highlight Story

The Argentine Football Association says it will offer Diego Maradona a new four-year contract that would keep him in charge of the national team through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, a spokesman for the association, said on Wednesday that AFA president, Julio Grondona, would meet next week with Maradona to discuss the offer. This is the strongest indication that Maradona is likely to continue as the coach.

As he had walked off the pitch after Argentina’s crushing quarterfinal World Cup exit, Maradona had hinted that it was time for him to quit as national coach.

His jubilant welcome home might have made him think twice.

In stark contrast to the frosty reception given to coaches from Brazil and England after their disappointing early exits, Maradona got a hero’s welcome despite a 4-0 loss to Germany.

More than 20,000 fans greeted him at Buenos Aires airport, a lawmaker proposed a statue in his honour and he was urged to stay on by President Cristina Fernandez, who took over broadcast rights to soccer games last year.

“Hang in there Maradona,” Fernandez said last week in a speech to supporters. “No Argentine has given us so much happiness on the soccer field as Diego Maradona.”

During the World Cup, pundits hailed Argentina’s attacking style, the majestic dribbling of Lionel Messi and the striking force of Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain.

It was Maradona who stole the limelight, however, prowling the sidelines in a shiny, grey suit and inspiring hope that he could again propel Argentina to success in soccer’s most coveted trophy, this time as coach.

Maradona has been keeping a low profile since returning from South Africa, staying at his home to reflect on the loss away from the glare of media and fans.

AFA spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, who helped to write Maradona’s autobiography, said the decision was down to Maradona.