Maradona approach confirmed as Dundee plan glamour game

DUNDEE yesterday confirmed that moves are afoot to bring Argentina legend Diego Maradona to Dens Park. The former World Cup winner, recently honoured by FIFA as joint player of the century with Pele, will play for Dundee in a specially arranged friendly match in either February or March.

Nothing has been agreed in terms of opposition, but southern Italian side Napoli, who Maradona inspired to two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990, are the preferred option.

The player will pocket a reported appearance fee of 250,000 for 90 minutes toil, only just below Dundee’s record transfer, paid for midfielder Javier Artero. The club would not comment on the financial price of Maradona’s arrival on Tayside, although the sum is likely to be covered by television rights, and other commercial spin-offs.

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Due to his friendship with Dundee striker and former international team-mate Claudio Caniggia, Maradona had already agreed to play for Dundee in Dubai, where the Dens Park club hoped to be heading for the winter break. However, because of time constraints, this trip has been cancelled, and Dundee are now expected to travel to Italy.

The possibility of Maradona, 40, squeezing into a Dundee shirt has been discussed ever since Caniggia signed for the club in October, an equally startling event. Many playfully envisaged the legendary figure taking a seat in the Dens Park main stand, and perhaps indulging in a few keepie ups in the centre circle. Instead, the increasingly insane environment that is Dens Park, has thrown up a story that dwarves even this: Maradona will play for the club.

A press release yesterday stated: "In relation to continuing speculation in the media, Dundee Football Club can confirm that there was recent correspondence between Diego Maradona, his representatives and Dundee Football Club that outlined both parties’ desire for Maradona to play for Dundee in a one-off glamour friendly.

"We hope that we are in a position to settle upon further details, such as a date, time and place for the game within the next few days. But it is looking increasingly likely that any match involving Maradona (and Dundee FC) will take place at Dens Park stadium."

The fact Maradona is coming to Dundee makes the tie-up of the world’s greatest player with the city’s oldest club rather more special. Indeed, it will be the first time Maradona has played in Scotland since he starred as a teenager in Argentina’s 3-1 defeat of Scotland at Hampden Park in 1979.

Over 20 years later Maradona is back, having in the interim caused the football world to shake. In that same period, Dundee have experienced a similarly tempestuous time, though most of it away from the sharp end of the game. While they may have employed bulkier players (Cammy Fraser in his second spell at the club springs to mind) they have never enjoyed the services of a fellow with such world renown. Even Caniggia must bow to Maradona in the superstar stakes. And so, too, must Ayr United’s James Grady, a one-time incumbent of the Dundee No10 shirt, which Maradona will, for one night only, make his own.

"They will get some ability in it for a change," Grady mused last night. "The fans there are tremendous and they’re absolutely mental. They took me to their hearts and they will do the same to Maradona, and he’s a bigger player than me."

Dundee have also confirmed an interest in bringing Lazio’s Attilio Lombardo to Dens.

The player may become surplus to requirements in the wake of Sven Goran Eriksson’s departure to England, and Dundee player-manager Ivano Bonetti said: "I have spoken to Attilio a couple of times, and told him our plans at Dundee. We agreed we might make him an offer when he is free."