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Maradona meets players in England

Manchester United's Carlos Tevez and Diego Maradona
Maradona sees Tevez (left) as central to his Argentina squad

New Argentina head coach Diego Maradona visited Manchester United and Liverpool's training grounds as he continues his tour to meet his squad.

The 48-year-old met Argentina internationals Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano at their respective clubs.

Maradona has pinpointed Mascherano as his new captain and Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said: "We talked about what Maradona wants from us and Javier.

"The talks were positive and Javier would make a great captain."

The Liverpool midfielder was the last player to leave Liverpool's Melwood training facility but he refused to discuss the details of his meeting with Maradona.

The former World Cup winner, who was appointed earlier this week, arrived in England on Friday to meet his country's Premier League stars.

Maradona started his journey in Manchester, where he met Rio Ferdinand, who was celebrating his 30th birthday, and the United captain said, "We were like schoolkids around a star coming to school.

606: DEBATE

"I think the gaffer would probably like him to come every day the way he raised standards in training.

"Everyone was trying to impress him. In my eyes he is the best footballer ever.

"He was my idol and part of the reason why I started to play football.

"I can't hold him in higher esteem than that. To be able to shake his hand, get a cuddle of him and a picture, it made my birthday."

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson added: "It was good. The players were delighted to see him."

Maradona travelled to Manchester to hold talks with Tevez, who he sees as integral to his plans even though the striker's first-team appearances at United have been limited since the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov.

The 48-year-old, accompanied by his assistant Carlos Bilardo, then went on to Liverpool where he again made an impact with the Premier League stars.

Diego Maradona and Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand (right) says Maradona was one of his heroes growing up

Reds' skipper Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Robbie Keane were reportedly at the front of the queue to meet the 1986 World Cup legend.

Benitez said: "I was having a discussion with Maradona in my office, but it was very difficult.

"There was a constant stream of our biggest players wanting to meet him.

"Maradona was great, he was very patient with all the requests; even some of Carragher's family turned up.

"Xabi Alonso also wanted to meet him, his father had played alongside Maradona at Barcelona."

Maradona is in Britain to prepare for his first match in charge, a friendly with Scotland on 19 November.

The former World Cup winner will return to Hampden Park, where he scored his first goal for Argentina in their 3-1 friendly win over Scotland in 1979.

Maradona was named as Argentina's head coach last Tuesday, succeeding Alfio Basile, who stepped down in October.

Since making his dramatic return to football, Maradona has been dashing across Europe to meet his squad.

On Thursday, he travelled to Spain to meet his players at Real Madrid as well as Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, although the 21-year-old is being rested for the Scotland match.

His first squad also includes Newcastle duo Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez.

Maradona had been expected in the UK last weekend but delayed his visit until after his official unveiling.



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see also
Maradona in Manchester
07 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Mascherano plays down captaincy
05 Nov 08 |  Liverpool
Argentina stars set for Glasgow
05 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Maradona named as Argentina coach
04 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Messi to miss Scotland friendly
09 Oct 08 |  Internationals
The Maradona Diaries
04 Nov 08 |  Football
Maradona's fall from grace
19 Apr 04 |  Football
Diego Maradona timeline
19 Apr 04 |  Football


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