AWOL Diego seeks peace of mind
Diego Maradona has run away from a showdown with the Argentinean FA President - by taking his girlfriend to an expensive health spa in Northern Italy to shed his famous flab.
This provocative move has been seen by those closest to Maradona as the first stages of a potential sacking for the nation's most famous former footballer.
President Julio Grondona called Maradona to a summit meeting after the World Cup defeats to Brazil and then Paraguay and, according to my sources, the reason was to impose a No. 2 on the manager to halt the country's free fall out of the World Cup finals in South Africa.
Maradona knew this move was coming and rebelled against it, so the tubby boss hopped on a flight to Italy, heading for the luxurious Villa Eden spa for treatment where next week is a special 'Anti- Stress Week'.
ESPN Soccernet asked Argentinean World Cup winner and friend of Maradona, Ossie Ardiles, for his interpretation of these amazing developments. Ardiles said: "I believe that Grondona wants to impose a No. 2 on Diego, to help him out in this crisis, and he is not having it.
"It is well known in my country that the media have turned against Diego. They asked him for a meeting the morning after the defeat against Paraguay and he told them to get lost. Then the President called him to a meeting on Monday, but Diego just went off to the Italian spa with his girlfriend!
"I am sure they will not be very happy with Diego for avoiding talks about the problems and how to resolve them. Grondona is also technical director, but Diego won't let him anywhere near the team, not the training ground or the dressing room, and it is clear he wants to involved.
"The team is very bad at the moment and, for the Paraguay game, Diego called up a 36-year old for his first cap, and ended up playing this centre half at centre forward in the desperate last minutes of the game.
"There is a lot of talk now about whether Diego might be sacked. Our next game is early next month at home to Peru, and if he is still in charge for that game, I believe Argentina can get their act together and win and be back on course for the World Cup finals.
"Diego is lucky you know. His first game was against Scotland, so he got off to a good start, the first World Cup qualifier was home to Venezuela and again that was a good start - but as it has turned out that was his best game. Since then they have lost 6-1 to Bolivia at altitude, followed by the 3-1 defeat to Brazil and then lost to Paraguay, and now Diego disappears to Italy!"
We have an insight into where Diego is holed up to avoid the stress and pain of his life as the national team boss. This is what it says in the resort's brochure: "Villa Eden, the first beauty and health center in Italy, was founded in 1982 and has been owned since then by the Schmid family. Since November 1993 it has lain in the skilled hands of the youngest Schmid daughter, Angelika, who has mastered the challenge with much élan and engagement.
"Vacations at Villa Eden are more that just a few restful days. It's an experience that redefines your image of quality of life and spans a curve from the moment of your arrival to your daily life at home. Villa Eden is an ideal place to relax, reflect and to recognize and reclaim your own beauty and health. Every experience at Villa Eden offers the possibility to make the best out of your life."
Just what Diego needs right now; peace and tranquillity. It won't last long. It will last until he goes back home.
• Harry Harris has twice won the British Sports Journalist of the Year award. His book Down Memory Lane is now available.