Perhaps it is fitting that on Diego Maradona's 48th birthday, his old club Napoli (which he led to two Serie A titles) is currently second in the Italian top flight, only behind Udinese on goal differential. At the same time the Argentina legend, who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title, has also been named the new national team coach.
He remains beloved in this city by the sea where the locals will tell you that he, not Pele', is the greatest player of all. Whether the once great player is up to the task of guiding his team to glory at the 2010 World Cup remains to be seen, given his colorful and turbulent past off the pitch.
Franz Beckenbauer, who has been succesful as both player and coach seems skeptical, telling Sportal.de: "Maybe this comes in time for Maradona so he can find a break from his turbulent lifestyle. Managing the team is completely different to playing in it. You have to be more responsible. The lifestyle is also important but Maradona's life hasn't really been tranquil by any means over the years. In any case I am happy for him and I am looking forward to meeting him when he comes here to see Di Michelis."
Perhaps Fiorentina's Alberto Gilardino was just giving a salute to Maradona last weekend when he did his best "Hand of God" imitation against Palermo. The goal counted but later led to a two-game suspension. Watch it here:
Of course Maradona's original version to beat England's Peter Shilton in Mexico City at the 1986 World Cup counted and led not to a suspension, but to a championship:
Still, one thing Maradona will command from the players immediately is respect, given his long list of accomplishments and his enduring touch on the ball (even at 48). The question is whether he can manage the side through qualification and to take Argentina to where they feel they rightfully belong (given their quality and pedigree); the World Cup final match.