DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Diego Maradona was hired Monday to coach United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl on a two-year contract.
Maradona, who has been out of coaching since leading Argentina to the World Cup quarterfinals last year, will be in charge when the next season opens in September.
“Al Wasl Sports Club has become synonymous with achievements of this calibre, and we are very pleased to be welcoming Maradona to a long line of accolades in the club’s history,” Al Wasl vice chairman Marwan Bin Bayat said in a statement. “This partnership embodies the vision of the club as it embraces forward thinking developments in the region to establish unprecedented standards for the sport.”
Maradona visited the club’s training facility Saturday and had been in talks for several days. Al Wasl officials would not disclose details of the contract, saying only that it was for two years and that Maradona would be responsible for leading the club “to new heights.”
Al Wasl is currently fourth in the domestic league, which ends next month, and has been looking for a coach since firing Sergio Farias in March. The club is chaired by Sheik Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a brother of the Dubai ruler.
Al Wasl said that Maradona has left the country and could not be reached for comment. He is expected back next month.
The signing of Maradona is one of the biggest for the fledging United Arab Emirates professional league, which is only in its third season. Last year, Dubai club Al Ahli signed and subsequently fired former Leeds and Aston Villa manager David O’Leary. It also signed former Juventus captain Fabio Cannavaro, who remains with the club but is sidelined by an injury.
Maradona was captain when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, but a ballooning waistline later slowed his explosive speed and he retired in 1997.
Before taking over as coach of Argentina in 2008, he had only coached Deportivo Mandiyu in 1994 and Racing Club in 1995, and in both cases left before his contract was up.
Under Maradona, Argentina’s results were mixed and the team slumped to two of its worst losses — a 6-1 hammering by Bolivia in World Cup qualifying and a 4-0 quarterfinal loss to Germany at the final tournament in South Africa.
Since losing the Argentina job last year, Maradona has been linked to several coaching vacancies, including Iran’s national team and English clubs Blackburn and Fulham.