Diego Maradona, the Argentine legend who led his nation to the quarter-finals of the World Cup before learning that is contract would not be renewed, has targeted a return to management in England with Aston Villa, according to one of his agents. Walter Soriano, Maradona's European representative, claims the 49-year-old is in talks with a number of clubs over a possible move to Europe.
Randy Lerner, the Villa owner, is seeking a new permanent manager after Martin O'Neill quit just days before the start of the Premier League season. Maradona, a controversial figure as both a player and manager, left his role as Argentina coach last month after his side lost 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals in South Africa. Maradona's reputation in England will be forever tarnished by his infamous handball goal that helped to knock the country out of the 1986 World Cup, but Soriano insists his client would be open to an approach from Lerner.
He told the Sunday Mercury: "I think Diego would be very open to the idea of coming to England and managing Aston Villa. "He is very attracted to English football and the way of life in the country and I know he would be very willing to move there. He loves the English countryside and the respect for privacy, so he would be very happy there, especially at a big club like Aston Villa. "If the owner Randy Lerner wants to make him a serious offer, I am sure he would get a very positive response. Diego is currently talking with a number of clubs in Europe - including another one in England - about a management role and is looking at his options carefully."
Villa began the new campaign with a convincing 3-0 win against West Ham United on Saturday. Meanwhile, Hatem Ben Arfa the France international midfielder said he will not play for Marseille again and told the Ligue 1 champions to let him move to Newcastle United. A stand-off has developed between the French club and player, with Ben Arfa saying he wants to join the English side and Marseille insisting he is staying.
Ben Arfa missed training for two days in a row and was dropped by Didier Deschamps, the Marseille coach, for the Ligue 1 match on Saturday at Valenciennes, where the champions lost 3-2. "I will not go back to the Commanderie [Marseille's training base]," Ben Arfa told French sports daily L'Equipe yesterday. "It's over. I'm ready not to play this season." Marseille said Newcastle had made no serious offer for the 23-year-old. Ben Arfa, however, said that a deal could be done.
"Newcastle have committed themselves to give Marseille what they were asking for, which is a loan with an option to buy me," he said. * Agencies