TEHRAN: It takes little to fuel speculation about the career of Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona but one nod from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was enough for a newspaper to report he is line to coach Iran.
“President Ahmadinejad: Maradona might be head coach of the national team,” read the headline splashed across the front page of Iranian daily Ebtekar on Monday, along with a large photograph of the World Cup winner.
Rumours have swirled in recent months of Maradona, who took Argentina to the quarter finals of this year's World Cup, taking charge of an Iran side which last qualified for the tournament in 2006.
At a ceremony held to honour medal winners from the recent Asian Games in China, Ahmadinejad confirmed that Maradona was due to visit the Islamic Republic at some time in the future.
“When asked about reports of Maradona becoming Iran's new head coach, he nodded his head,” the newspaper reported.
Maradona, 50, is an admirer of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, the fiery left-wing president of Venezuela who is a close ally of Iran, and has expressed his admiration of Ahmadinejad. All three are foes of the United States.
“I've already met Fidel and Chavez... now I need to meet your president. I'd like to meet Ahmadinejad,” he said in 2007 when he sent a signed soccer shirt as a gift to Iran.
A trip to China last month prompted local speculation that he might be heading there to coach the national team or a club.