Tonight Diego Maradona announced his Provisional Squad of 30 players for the 2010 World Cup. And its mildly shocking reading.
Earlier today, Dunga announced his Brazilian squad, leaving out both Ronaldinho and Adriano. But that fits with the systems Dunga has always played by, as depressing as they are. Maradona's list, in contrast, doesn't fit into any tactical pattern, excludes players in vital positions, includes a couple of bizarrely whimsical choices, and seems to indulge the coaches desire to select as many Argentina-based players as possible to the detriment of the talent available in the squad in South Africa.
Instead of listing the squad - which you can easily find out by googling it - I'm just going to list some of the players Maradona has ignored. This is without even considering the case of Juan Roman Riquelme, who declared himself unavailable for selection more or less as soon as Maradona took over.
Juan Pablo Aimar
Probably the leading contender for the role of playmaker, or Enganche, as Argentines call it, Aimar has just won the Portuguese title with Benfica, where he played a vital role in a thrillingly attractive and versatile side, contributing goals and assists. He played for Maradona's team in the vital final sequence of Qualifiers, made a goal for Higuain, and has been ignored despite fine form. Obviously, he's a beautiful little player - contributing quick-thinking, excellent passing, dribbling ability and an eye for goal. In his position, Maradona has instead selected Javier Pastore, probably the future holder of the position, and Sebastian Blanco, a real surprise for the young player from Lanus. Aimar would have been the better option.
Luis "Lucho" Gonzalez
Porto fans called him "El Comandante" due to his leadership on the field, and he was a great favourite of Argentina's Coach at the last World Cup, Pekarman. He was injured for much of the first half of his first Season with Marseille (after winning the League title for each of the last four Seasons in Portugal) but when he regained fitness and found form, he was an awesome sight; an almost faultless passing machine who made a big difference in both attack and defense, became the teams de facto leader and dictated the tempo of every game. Result: Marseille won the French league. Maradona picked him and he scored a goal against Bolivia in last years shock 6-1 hammering. The coach seemed to blame him, to some extent, for that result, as he hasn't been picked since. His versatility means that he could have played more or less anywhere across Argentina's midfield. But he'll be watching on TV instead.
Anyone who watched Inter Milan's heroically defiant, tactically brilliant performance against Barcelina at Camp Nou a few weeks ago will be able to tell you why Cambiasso would probably walk into most teams at the World Cup, never mind squads. More than just a defensive midfielder, hes simply a great footballer, amazingly hardworking, intelligent in his movement and passing, committed and possessed of deceptive skills. Maradona presumably decided that Javier Mascherano is better, which may be true. But Mario Bolatti, the alternative selection in that position, is not yet at the level of Cambiasso or Mascherano.
49 goals in 106 games for Porto. 14 in 26 this Season for his new club, Lyon, where he was also voted Player of the Year in France. He scores headers, long-distance drives, neat close range finishes, from dribbles, volleys - hes a goalscorer, the type who can tie up an opposition defence on his own. Of course, Argentina have arguably teh greatest line-up of strikers in teh World in their squad - Messi, Tevez, Higuain, Aguero, Milito. But surely Lisandro is a better bet than Martin Palermo, a 37 year old who has never really shown he can cut it at International level?
The real star of a Valencia team who will finish third in Spain this Season - "first" behind the financial muscle of Real Madrid and Barcelona, the player with the second most assists in Spain this Season (after Lionel Messi), part-playmaker, part holding player, he should be the future of the Argentina midfield. And it looks like Maradona wants it to stay that way.
He was one of Maradona's untouchables. But he fell out of favour at Madrid - favour he has since regained, forming a formidable central midfield partnership with Xabi Alonso over the last two months - and, allegedly, his terrible relationship with clubmate Gonzalo Higuain may have cost him a place in the National Squad. But here is a player who once formed a great duo with Mascherano, who maintains the Argentine ideal of short passing from deep midfield at every moment in every game, who works tirelessly and has grown up playing alongside Messi, Aguero et al. Maradona is fickle...
Unequivocally, undoubtedly, truly one of the greatest Argentine players of all time. Hes 36, hes got 136 caps, hes won lots of trophies. And yet hes still the best option Maradona has at right-back. He prowls the flank for Inter - where he is Captain - like an 20 year old, driving up and down, pushing forward yet never relinquishing his defensive duties.
Instead, he has chosen two journeymen to fill in at right back if and when his patented "Four Central Defenders" system malfunctions. Clemente Rodriguez and ariel Garce are both dependable players. Neither is even worthy of comparison with Javier Zanetti.
Like Aimar, Saviola has enjoyed a great Season with Benfica, scoring 11 goals in 24 games and setting up Oscar Cardozo, his strike partner, for many others. Hes got undoubted classand perhaps offers something slightly different to the others upfront. Maradona has never picked him, however.
A defender of undoubted style and class, Milito had been out for a year with a serious injury, but his recent return for Barcelona has shown that, while rusty, he has lost none of his pace, ability on the ball, or footballing intelligence. He would have been a good insurance policy for the Coach to have in case of injury to one of his first choice defenders.
He has wandered across clubs and continents and never really, you feel, fulfilled his enormous talent. But what a player. Currently wowing fans of Internacional in Porto Allegre, Brazil, he can play as the enganche or on the left wing. He has issues with temperament and discipline, but he is a constant threat to the opposition. He hasn't played for Argentina since before the last World Cup, and Maradona was never likely to change that.