September 5, 2019 / 10:01 PM / 14 days ago

Soccer: Maradona to coach Argentine club Gimnasia y Esgrima

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - World Cup winner Diego Maradona has signed a deal with Argentine side Gimnasia y Esgrima, returning to coach in his homeland for the first time since 2010.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Ascenso MX Final - Second Leg - Atletico San Luis v Dorados, Alfonso Lastras Stadium, San Luis Potosi, Mexico - May 5, 2019 Dorados coach Diego Armando Maradona before the match REUTERS/Henry Romero

“Star of world football, Diego Armando Maradona, has signed his name and is the new coach of Gimnasia,” the club said in a short statement on Thursday. “The deal runs until the end of the current season.”

Maradona, who was an erratic and brilliant striker and is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time, most recently coached in Mexico, where he led second division side Dorados of Sinaloa to two unsuccessful playoff appearances.

His new team, from the city of La Plata just outside Buenos Aires, was formed in 1887 and claims to be the oldest professional football club in the Americas.

Known as El Lobo or The Wolf, they have won just one professional title, the Copa Centenario, in 1993.

They currently sit at the bottom of the first division table, with one point from five matches.

“Finally it’s now official,” Maradona wrote on Instagram. “I am very happy to be the new coach of @gimnasia_oficial.”

“I want to thank the president Gabriel Pellegrino for this opportunity and say to all the fans that we are going to work with our hearts and souls for The Wolf.”

Maradona’s return was eagerly expected and jubilant fans turned up at the club on Thursday to welcome him.

It marks a working return to his homeland for the first time in almost a decade, following a spell in charge of the national side between 2008 and 2010. He also had stints as club coach at Mandiyu and Racing in the 1990s.

The 58-year-old won the World Cup as a player with Argentina in 1986 but has had frequent hospital treatment over the years, often due to his extravagant lifestyle.

Maradona was taken into hospital in 2004 with severe heart and respiratory problems linked to cocaine use. He later underwent drug rehabilitation in Cuba and Argentina before a stomach-stapling operation in 2005 helped him lose weight.

He resigned from the Dorados in June, citing the need for operations on his knee and shoulder.

Writing by Andrew Downie,; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond

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