Diego Maradona: can he do it again?

Twice- busted for cocaine, allegations of links to organised crime, and recently hospitalised after getting into a fight with his dog, Diego Maradona must be one of football's most interesting characters. But can he reproduce as a manager the success he had as a player?

Arguably the greatest football player of all time, Diego Maradona is revered by millions of Argentines who share his conviction that he's the Chosen One. They call him D1OS "a mash-up of his playing number and the Spanish word for god". That "divinity" is about to be tested. A veteran of four World Cups, Maradona's greatest moment was when he led Argentina to victory in 1986, with the help of his infamous "Hand of God" goal against England in the quarter-finals. He's now convinced it's his destiny to repeat the trick as team manager in South Africa, says the Daily Mirror. Others aren't so sure.

The array of talent in the Argentine squad is certainly "frightening". But, after a chaotic qualifying campaign (the team only just scraped though), the bookies have demoted Argentina as favourites precisely because of the "Maradona factor". As his former team-mate Ossie Ardiles observes in The Daily Telegraph: "Argentina's fortunes in this World Cup could mirror those of Maradona's history in the tournament. Ecstasy and glory, or agony and ignominy."

Thrown out of the 1994 World Cup for drug abuse, Maradona has twice been busted for cocaine and has a history of violence. Convicted of shooting an air rifle at a journalist, he's been investigated for organised crime links and tax irregularities: he allegedly owes the Italian government more than €30m. Maradona has also made some interesting friends, notes the LA Times, including Fidel Castro (who hosted a two-year rehab session in Cuba) and Venezuelan firebrand Hugo Chavez.

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Raised in a "lawless" Buenos Aires shanty town, he rose to stardom at just 15. At 20, he won the league championship with Boca Juniors, Argentina's most popular professional team. As a young man, notes The Guardian, he was regarded as "humble, accommodating... an all-round wonderful kid". It was as if "a switch flicked" when he moved to Europe and entered the hothouse of the Italian Serie A league, fast becoming the world's top-paid athlete. He developed an "intense relationship with drugs" and an eating disorder that saw his weight balloon. He has twice undergone emergency heart surgery.

But even by his standards, his recent behaviour has been extraordinary, says the Daily Mirror. He made headlines for getting into a fight with his own dog, culminating in another visit to hospital; and for running over a reporter. If Argentina wins, he has pledged to run naked round the obelisk in Buenos Aires' central square. One shudders to think what will happen if it loses, remarks The Guardian. So "do not turn away for a moment. You have no idea what fireworks you might miss."

Maradona's eclectic and paranoid management style

Maradona's paranoia, arrogance and "natural vindictiveness" have dented his popularity even in Argentina. But loyal fans prefer to remember "the sheer magic he produced as a player", says The Independent. Can he reproduce it as manager?

Not on current form, argues Ossie Ardiles in The Daily Telegraph. True, some great players go on to become great managers (notably Franz Beckenbauer, who led Germany to World Cup victory in both roles). But Maradona's "technical, tactical and psychological" leadership skills are sadly lacking. He starts fights with anyone who opposes him and surrounds himself with "Yes, Diego" men.

That probably explains his "irresponsible" team selection for this year's tournament, says Ardiles. At least three key players (Zanetti, Cambiasso and Riquelme), all "leaders on the pitch", have been unceremoniously dumped in favour of untried players a "very, very stupid" move. Even the inclusion of Lionel Messi (who is arguably currently the best player in the world) is unlikely to make up for their absence.

Maradona doesn't want "strong dissenting voices around him", agrees The Guardian. And his paranoia is seemingly reaching new heights almost daily "even in Argentina there are people who want us to fail", he said recently.

Indeed, Argentina's fans have had to get used to his "impulsive choices and puzzling formations": he has so far juggled 108 players in little more than 18 months. Of the lesser lights who flew to South Africa, Ariel Garc has become symbolic of Maradona's unconventional approach. According to some reports, the undistinguished defender only made the team because Maradona dreamt that Argentina won the World Cup, "and the only face he could remember being there