Could Diego Maradona Work as a Coach in China? With the new influx of aging foreign stars into China’s professional soccer league, the sport is sure to get more exciting on the field. And, as Chinese soccer fans learned Monday, it may soon get more of the off-the-field drama every modern soccer league needs.
Arriving in the Beijing Capital Airport on Monday, madcap Argentinean soccer legend Diego Maradona reiterated in a press conference he would like to coach in China. According to the state-run China Daily, Maradona added that he wants “to contribute to the development of China’s soccer youth.”
In China for an eight-day charity trip, Maradona is set to meet with Wei Di, the man in charge of China’s Football Association, China Daily said. The trip marks Maradona’s second visit to China this year.
In January, he was photographed tossing a soccer ball with a young Chinese fan at a charity event in Shanghai. In May, Tang Huiqing, one of Mr. Maradona’s agents, told local media he wished to become the head coach of China’s national team.
Given the shambolic record of China’s national team, the position might just suit Maradona, who was fired last month from Dubai’s Al Wasl FC after a disappointing season. Al Wasl finished eighth in its league and lost in the final of a regional tournament on penalties after two players were ejected for head-butting opponents.
Maradona had earlier coached the Argentinian national team but was fired after a weak performance in the 2010 World Cup.
Since his storied career as a player ended in the mid-1990s, Maradona has been known more for his erratic behavior than for his expert stewardship of any given team. During his time in Dubai, he had several run-ins with opposing teams’ fans and coaches, at one point charging into the stands to confront opposing fans who were taunting his girlfriend.
Prior to Dubai, Maradona had long been known for his strained relationship with the press. In 1994, he fired at journalists with an air gun, injuring four and earning himself a suspended jail sentence of two years and 10 months. But this apparently did not discourage the quick-tempered coach from confrontations with reporters. Two years ago, his car rolled over the leg of a cameraman, sending the man to the hospital. And in a press conference after securing a spot in the 2010 World Cup, Mr. Maradona also hurled insults at reporters who doubted his coaching abilities by stating, “you can suck it, keep on sucking.”
Maradona might be interested in China as a place where his troop of illegitimate children and questionable driving history would make him just another member of the upper class. But his desire to come to China likely has more to do with the reportedly massive salaries graying coaches and players, like Marcelo Lipi and Didier Drogba, are commanding in the country.
Drogba signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with China Super League club Shanghai Shenghua in June with a reported salary of £200,000 ($318,000) per week. The footballer, who has earned rave reviews, was dubbed the “Devil Beast” after a 5-1 drubbing of Shenghua rivals Hangzhou Greentown in his home debut.
Lippi, the former head coach of the Italian national team, joined Guangzhou Evergrande in May, also for two and a half years, with a contract estimated to be worth around 10 million euros ($12.28 million) per season. Evergrande won under Lippi’s guidance just three days after the coach arrived in Guangzhou.
Given Maradona’s larger-than-life persona and China’s fondness for big-name stars willing to live in the country, the aging legend likely wouldn’t have much trouble finding a job in the world’s most populous country. Far less certain is whether the government would tolerate his antics.