x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Maradona: I've come here to win

Argentine legend laughs off reports he will earn an annual US$8 million package as he sweeps into Dubai to start his reign as manager of Al Wasl.

Argentine legend laughs off reports he will earn an annual US$8 million package as he sweeps into Dubai to start his reign as manager of Al Wasl.
Argentine legend laughs off reports he will earn an annual US$8 million package as he sweeps into Dubai to start his reign as manager of Al Wasl.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona yesterday laughed off reports he will earn an annual package of US$8 million (Dh29m) as he swept into Dubai yesterday to start his reign as manager of Al Wasl.

The pedigree of the man who was named by Fifa as the Joint Player of the Century alongside Pele, who coached Argentina at last summer's World Cup, means he is certain to command the sort of salary which will make him the highest paid coach in the Pro League, but neither Maradona or the club were willing discuss the finer details of the deal yesterday at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel.

"We are very, very far away from those numbers [$8m]," Maradona said. "I am not a player anymore, I am a trainer. People who really make money now are the players. The coaches don't make that kind of money. I have not come here for a vacation, but to work."

Marwan bin Bayat, the Wasl chairman, would also not be drawn on the subject of money.

"Maradona is a different case," bin Bayat said. "With him come image rights, commercial activities and appearance at special events - that will certainly bring income to the club as well as Maradona. We are in discussion with three leading companies, who are specialist in marketing and managing stars. I think we are going to sign a deal within a week from now."

Wasl will also conclude deals with two foreign players over the next weeks and will also attempt to raid other Pro League clubs for their best Emirati players.

The club, owned by Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid, have already signed the Chile international Edson Puch and Mubarak Hassan, from Al Fujairah, and have made the capture of a midfielder a priority. The fact the club made a failed bid for Diego Forlan, the Uruguay striker, would also suggest they are in the market for a striker from overseas. The futures of Alexandre Oliveira, Mohammed al Shaibah and Francisco Yeste, the three club's foreign players, would appear to be in doubt as Maradona seeks to reshape the squad.

"I would like to bring good players here, but I cannot mention names," Maradona said. "The only thing I am going to say, and I am going to be very clear about this, is that the players I will bring, they are going to have to play with passion and be ready to give their life on the pitch.

"I don't want old players. I have not come here to create a graveyard of white elephants. I don't want players who are about to retire. I don't want players just to get more photographers to the stadium.

"The players I will bring, he will come here to run, to run harder and more than the other players on the team. I don't want big names. I am not going to ask [Lionel] Messi or [Carlos] Tevez and I am not going to ask them not because I don't like them; I love them, but I also know they have their own commitments.

"I will bring people who will show the same commitment [towards Al Wasl] as these players.

"I have come here to win the championship, so we are going to play hard and try to win every match. Don't have any doubts about that.

"We will try to make a very competitive team so that the people who believed in us will be happy with our performance."

Bin Bayat said he has received a shortlist of transfer targets from Maradona and will begin the process of negotiating deals.

"We are not going to focus on the stars," bin Bayat said. "We are going to get the young, hungry fighters. We have certain names from Latin America and maybe a few from North Africa.

"We are not looking for stars, rather for players who will serve the club's purpose. So we will probably have players who are not famous.

"We will also be trying to enhance our team with some national players, especially since our objective for next season will be to win the league and not just participate in it."

arizvi@thenational.ae

Additional reporting by Neil Cameron