BNC Bilardo hits back at a bitter Diego Maradona

BNC Bilardo hits back at a bitter Diego Maradona

Argentina team manager Carlos Salvador Bilardo talks to aides during a practice in Pretoria, South Africa.

July 31, 2010, Saturday/ 16:06:00/ AP
Carlos Bilardo, who has been accused by Diego Maradona of betrayal and working behind the scenes to have him dismissed as Argentina’s coach, says the former playing great was to blame for his own downfall.Bilardo, who coached the 1986 World Cup winning team led by Maradona -- and the 1990 team that finished second -- said Thursday that until now he has kept him mouth shut for the good of Argentina’s national team.

Maradona accused Bilardo, who is the Argentine national team director, of “betrayal” and Argentine Football Association president Julio Grondona of “lying” in a 10-minute speech Wednesday.

The outburst followed the AFA’s decision Tuesday not to renew his contract.

“Until now I have been still and have put up with everything for the good of the team, for the World Cup and the players,” Bilardo said Thursday on radio La Red. “I didn’t want to cause problems. But enough is enough. I can’t let myself be more humiliated. My friends don’t understand how I’ve put up with this.”

He said he planned a news conference next week to air his side of events.

The AFA said it offered Maradona a four-year contract to continue until the 2014 World Cup, but only if he would drop seven members of his coaching and backroom staff. Maradona declined, although many criticized him for his lack of tactical knowledge and his unwillingness to seek help.

“You can’t always give all of your friends jobs,” Bilardo said.

Bilardo took some credit for winning the 1986 World Cup, and finishing second four years later and said Maradona owed him a debt of gratitude.

“I’m a World Cup champion and a runner-up,” he said. “I didn’t depend on Maradona. He depended on me. He hadn’t done much in ‘84 and ‘85.”

Grondona, who also replied to Maradona’s charges, said he had not lied to the famous No. 10. He acknowledged the job offer was there, but with conditions.

“I continue being sorry that he has gone because it’s very sad,” Grondona said. “But I did not lie to Maradona. I told Maradona that I was content with him, that he had to continue. What he misinterpreted was that the conditions weren’t the same.”

A national icon who often divides public opinion, Maradona took over as Argentina’s coach 21 months ago, stepping in with little experience on the bench.

In a roller-coaster ride, he used over 100 players in matches, struggled to qualify for the World Cup and wound up naming a 23-man World Cup team that excluded Inter Milan defender Javier Zanetti and teammate and midfielder Esteban Cambiasso.

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