Diego Armando Maradona is expected to be at the Olimpico tonight for Roma-Napoli. “I can see a different Napoli from previous years.”
The Argentina and Partenopei legend is in Italy to receive an award from La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
He aims to be at the Stadio Olimpico for this evening’s big Serie A game, which kicks off at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT), but could be held up by a transport strike that is causing gridlock.
Maradona was also served a notice from the Italian Government demanding €39m in back taxes, a situation that has been dragging on for over a decade. “I am being persecuted in the land of taxes,” explained the former player. “I just brought love for the people and a sporting spectacle without hurting anyone.”
He held a Press conference ahead of tonight’s match and warned Rafa Benitez he’d like to take his job.
“It will be a difficult game for both teams, because they want to confirm their status. Napoli should be more relaxed and hit them on the break, because Roma are forced to win.
“Benitez is doing a great job, though us Coaches do precious little once the ball starts moving around. I see a different Napoli from previous years, as they know how to stay on the field and beat Milan.
“Roma are racing like a train, but I say Napoli have more hunger. I hope Napoli will have a fantastic game. I am not one to predict results, but I’d love an open match with many goals.
“When Benitez goes, I’d love to be the Coach of Napoli. No President wants Maradona as Coach, though, as they are afraid of me because I won’t let anyone tread on me or accept orders.”
Maradona commented on the current football landscape and his own long-running feud with Pele.
“I’d put Leo Messi first, then Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Mario Balotelli. The difference between Cristiano and Messi is how the Real Madrid man hits the ball, whereas Messi has extraordinary footwork.
“Balotelli needs to be seen as a player and I’m sure I could help him grow as a person. He went to school with my daughter when he was at Manchester City, so I got to know him. He sent me a photograph of himself with a cigar. He needs to be left alone, as everyone has a right to live the way they want to.
“Pele? I was always loved by the people and Pele was always in second place. He got accustomed to being second around me. I won many times and Pele’s friends created an award that was worthless, because it wasn’t decided by the people.”
Maradona added that his life is back on track after health problems and drug addiction.
“When you are young, you think that you can do anything. I fell into the trap and hit rock bottom. I made my mother cry and hurt many people around me. One day my daughter Dalma said: ‘my sister needs you, so don’t die.’ From that moment on, I couldn’t do it anymore.
“In four months it will be 10 years that I’ve been clean.”