Baghdad: The Iraqi Football Association on Friday denied media reports that they were negotiating with Argentine great Diego Maradona to take over as a coach of the national team. "There is no negotiation between Iraqi Football Association with Diego Maradona and they don't have any intention to hire him," deputy IFA head Abdul-Khaliq Masoud told The Associated Press over the phone.
The denial came a day after an Argentine football official was quoted as saying that Maradona was a leading candidate to take over as Iraq coach. Hernan Tofoni, the general manager of World Eleven which organizes international friendly matches for Argentina's national team, was quoted by Argentina's state-run news agency Telam as saying the leadership of the IFA was expected to meet Friday and complete an offer to Maradona.
Tofoni told Telam that Iraq had wanted to hire an Argentine coach and Maradona's name surfaced as a candidate. The Buenos Aires daily La Nacion also reported that Maradona was close to signing a deal with Iraq.
Maradona was fired in July as the coach of Dubai club Al Wasl despite having a year left on his contract. He was dismissed as Argentina's national coach following the team's elimination in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His time in charge split public opinion in Argentina with criticism of his tactical decisions, offset by the respect he commands for his achievements as a player.
Former Brazil great Zico resigned as Iraq coach last month over what he said was the Iraqi association's failure to live up to its commitments. Zico said he was owed four months' salary by the IFA, adding that he was disappointed by the lack of consideration for his work. He had been coach since August 2011.