Buenos Aires (Argentina): Dismissive of those who criticise his limited coaching experience, Diego Maradona is eager to take charge of Argentina.
"We're holding meetings trying to lay out the coaching team. I'm anxious for it to become official," Maradona told journalists on Wednesday while leaving his house on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Maradona will be confirmed as national coach next Tuesday, a week after the job was offered by Julio Grondona, head of the Argentine Football Federation.
But Maradona's coaching team was running into problems already.
He hoped some of his former national teammates could be assistant coaches or trainers, but Sergio Batista, the Argentina Youth coach who led the country to Olympic gold in Beijing, appeared to be backing off.
Grondona was reported to have organised a meeting with Batista on Wednesday to offer him a staff position but Batista implied in an interview with Del Plata radio station that he may reject it.
"I have my own coaching team and I'm going to respect it. I'm very happy with the youth squad," Batista said on Wednesday. "It shouldn't be taken badly if I don't want to be an assistant. It has to be understood that one has other priorities."
Beside Maradona, Carlos Bilardo will manage the team, and Grondona said they will form a formidable duo.
"It's not easy to join two heavyweights, but with this we're theoretically guaranteeing excellence," Grondona told radio station La Red.
Maradona was also sure of lifting the team, which was third in South American qualifying for the World Cup.
"We have what it takes to make sure Argentina smiles while watching the national team play," he said.
However, many Argentines are skeptical about Maradona's appointment and don't think he's fit for the job.
In an unofficial online poll by daily Clarin, nearly 74 per cent of the 50,000 voters said they disagreed with the decision to hire Maradona, who was Argentina captain when it won the 1986 World Cup and reached the 1990 final.
Another poll by daily La Nacion showed similar results, with less than 10 per cent of the 5,000 voters saying it was a "good" decision to have Maradona replace Alfio Basile, who resigned following poor performances in World Cup qualifying.
Maradona was still a national hero because of his success on the pitch, even though his subsequent battles with drugs and obesity have marred his image.
The Argentine media also expressed doubts about Maradona as a coach, despite a generation of young stars that includes Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano.
"Excitement and controversy: Maradona heads to the national team," read La Nacion's headline on Wednesday.
The newspaper pointed out that while Maradona will be able to connect with the players, he lacks coaching experience and has an "unpredictable personality." Having Maradona as coach could also be a distraction to players because of the media attention he will attract, the newspaper said.
La Nacion sports columnist Daniel Arcucci questioned whether "Diego was risking the Maradona myth" by taking on the position.
"Maybe finding that winning mystique is what they're looking for now, surrounding Maradona with Carlos Bilardo and half the team from the Generation of 1986," he wrote, adding that the hiring "seems like the riskiest and most audacious" option available.
Many think the decision was based more on emotion than practicality.
Football daily Ole ran a banner headline declaring: "The national team has a boyfriend: Maradona returns to his great love."
Ole columnist Carlos Rodriguez Duval also questioned whether Maradona's record as a player would make him successful on the bench.
"Translating genius is not an exact science," he wrote. "There's no assurance that a brilliant football mind will be a brilliant coach. It's not the same."
The coach-to-be said he found such criticism "funny."
"I played for 22 years with the national team," Maradona said. "Everything is invented in football anyway."