Javier Mascherano, the Liverpool midfielder, has rejected claims that player power forced Diego Maradona out of the Argentina job, insisting the former manager had the full respect of his squad. Despite going out in the quarter-finals of the World Cup following a 4-0 defeat to Germany, Maradona was offered a new four-year contract by the Argentina Football Association (AFA). Nevertheless, the 49-year-old was told by Julio Grondona, the AFA president, that he had to change seven of his backroom staff, but Maradona defiantly turned down the offer.
Reports of dressing room unrest and player revolt have surfaced in recent days, but Mascherano, who was captain during Maradona's reign, said the two years spent playing under the former World Cup winner were perfectly harmonious. "There was a climate of total harmony and in the years I have been with the national team I have never seen anything like it," he told Radio Rivadavia in Argentina. "It hurts to see these things."
And Mascherano added he is even more hurt by the reports of a supposed lack of respect for Maradona. "I heard that we didn't respect Maradona and that is a lie," he said. "I don't need to grab a microphone to back him. The best way to do it is on the pitch and in the training camp - each one of us did what we had to do." Meanwhile, Holland and Spain have been fined by Fifa for their players' poor discipline in a bad-tempered World Cup final.
Fifa said on Tuesday the Dutch federation must pay 15,000 Swiss francs (Dh53,100) after eight different players received yellow cards, and Johnny Heitinga, the defender, was booked a second time and sent off. Howard Webb, the English referee, showed five yellow cards to Spain, who won the final 1-0, getting their federation a 10,000 Swiss francs fine. * Agencies