Reinvigorated, refreshed and revitalised...................Maradona returned from his luxury spa break in Italy this week, minus some earrings but with a list of players he hopes will see Argentina finally make it to next years World Cup. Any thoughts that 11 days of hydrotherapy, salt inhalation, reiki and 5 star pampering would mellow the under fire coach were soon put aside when he barked at plethora of microphones 'No one has instructed me to pick any players. I couldn't stand it from anyone. I'm 48 years old and nobody has imposed anything on me since I was 15. The list I bring is mine' which leaves us in no doubt who to blame if it all goes wrong. On to the players - the initial list of 18 is composed of those playing overseas - the headline, Gonzalo Higuian of Real Madrid finally gets his senior cap - Gabriel 'the scruffy kid' Heinze keeps his place as usual, I wonder if he and Higuain will be sharing a room????!
Some more surprises - Jesus Datolo, the pick of very bad bunch in the September qualifiers gets overlooked.....explain that. Javier Zanetti doesn't make the squad with Man City's Pablo Zabaleta drafted in as a replacement. Still with Man City Carlos Tevez keeps his place despite resembling a headless chicken in recent games. Ezequiel Lavezzi stays on eventhough his impact has been minimal, on fire Inter striker Diego Milito is also retained. but Lyon's Lisandro Lopez is dropped. Benfica's Pablo Aimar is included for the first time since 2007. Full 18 as follows:
Goalkeepers: Sergio ROMERO (AZ Alkmaar, Holland)Mariano ANDÚJAR (Catania, Italy)
Defenders: Nicolás PAREJA (Espanyol, Spain)Gabriel HEINZE (Olympique Marseille, France)Fabricio COLOCCINI (Newcastle United, England)Emiliano INSÚA (Liverpool, England)Pablo ZABALETA (Manchester City, England)
Midfielders: Javier MASCHERANO (Liverpool, England)Jonas GUTIERREZ (Newcastle United, England)Lucho GONZALEZ (Olympique Marseille, France)Angel DI MARIA (Benfica, Portugal)Pablo AIMAR (Benfica, Portugal)
Forwards: Lionel MESSI (Barcelona, Spain)Sergio AGÜERO (Atlético Madrid, Spain)Carlos TEVEZ (Manchester City, England)Gonzalo HIGUAIN (Real Madrid, Spain)Diego MILITO (Internazionale, Italy)Ezequiel LAVEZZI (Napoli, Italy).
The domestic players will be finalised after Wednesday's 'locals only' game v Ghana, Ortega has been called-up! Don't think I'll be setting my alarm for that one. Although Enzo Pérez of Estudiantes gets a deserved chance as does Jesús Méndez of Rosario Central.
On the subject of the Selección's return to the Monumental (remember the fuss?) Diego had a less than coded message for the cleaners, caretakers and groundsmen 'I have nothing against River. The important thing is that the dressing rooms are up to standard and the pitch is in good condition'. Remember the pitch made all the difference in Rosario.