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Diego gets a signal to depart

Buenos Aires: The Argentine Football Association has asked Diego Maradona to replace a majority of his staff, jeopardising his future as coach of the national team, according to members of the federation's executive committee.

Maradona has said with trademark defiance that he would refuse to renew his contract if the AFA dismissed even one of his coaching staff.

But in a meeting on Monday, AFA president Julio Grondona asked him to replace seven of his assistants, effectively showing him the door, according to several executive committee members.

They spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because they were not authorised to make public statements about the meeting.

Grondona and others asked Maradona to remove his close friend and assistant Alejandro Mancuso along with six others.

An Argentine sports newspaper called Grondona’s actions a “concealed goodbye” on Tuesday.

Grondona and Maradona have made no statements.

Maradona’s contract with AFA ended with Argentina’s humiliating 4-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup quarter finals.

Two weeks ago, the AFA offered Maradona the chance to renew his contract for another four years.

But Maradona put off meeting with Grondona to travel to Venezuela at the invitation of his friend President Hugo Chavez.

Maradona also ruffled feathers in the government of President Cristina Fernandez, who invited Maradona on two occasions to meet with her.

Maradona never responded or even answered the phone, forcing the President’s secretaries to leave messages on his answering machine, cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said last week.

Maradona’s relationship with key figures in Argentine football is also tense.

He kept leaders of AFA, and businessmen with commercial ties to the organisation, out of practice sessions in South Africa, while allowing reporters to enter.

Maradona’s results as coach have been mixed. Since he took the post in November 2008, the team has played 15 games, with eight victories and seven losses.

Two of the defeats rank among the worst in the team’s history: the 4-0 loss to Germany in Cape Town and a 6-1 loss to Bolivia during World Cup qualifying in La Paz.

If Maradona resigns, Estudiantes coach Alejandro Sabella and Racing’s Miguel Russo are likely candidates for the job.

But the AFA would likely need to name an interim coach for the friendly match against Ireland scheduled for August 11 in Dublin.

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