Quizzed about Terry Butcher's assertion that he could never forgive Maradona for the 'Hand of God' goal that helped knock England out of the 1986 World Cup, Argentina's new coach said he didn't "know why Butcher is taking this attitude".
Diego Maradona has set his sights on claiming football's ultimate prize for a second time as he embarks on an unexpected career as the coach of Argentina.
The little genius who, as a player, almost single-handedly guided his country to glory in Mexico in 1986 now believes he can repeat that triumph in South Africa in 2010 with a squad of players that might not have one individual as outstanding as himself, but is undeniably packed with world class talent.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme were excused international duty for Maradona's first game in charge, a friendly against Scotland here on Wednesday evening.
But after his first training sessions with the likes of Liverpool's Javier Mascherano and Manchester United's Carlos Tevez, Maradona was brimming with confidence about his prospect of emulating Franz Beckenbauer's achievement by captaining then coaching his country to World Cup glory.
"First and foremost, I only have one objective and that is to win the World Cup," Maradona said.
"There is no point thinking about making it into the last four. With the players that we have that has to be our goal and that is what I will be striving to achieve.
"It has been great for me to work with the players here. My time has come now and I am really enjoying the moment. I will work on the tactics and how we approach the games but it is very important that I get into the players' hearts.
"I think they need someone to guide them and I can do that. I want to make the players happy and proud to wear the shirt. I hope I will be good for them and they will be good for me."
The 48-year-old's managerial adventure begins at the ground where he scored his first international goal.
He was just 19 when he wowed Hampden and produced a stand-out performance alongside experienced performers who had lifted the World Cup a year earlier.
While no-one would ever question the footballing skills that earned him a standing ovation on his last visit to Hampden, Maradona has yet to manage at the highest level and his appointment has raised eyebrows throughout the football world.
But his first steps have been taken confidently with questions from the media handled with the kind of deft touch he used to employ to get the better of defenders.
Quizzed about Terry Butcher's assertion that he could never forgive him for the 'Hand of God' goal that helped knock England out of the 1986 World Cup, Argentina's new coach replied with a combination of good grace (he said he would be happy to kiss and make up) with a hint of a 'Terry who?' attitude.
"I don't know why Butcher is taking this attitude," Maradona said of the former England defender who is now assistant manager of Scotland. "If people are fine with me, I'll greet them.
"Let Butcher get on with his life and I'll get on with my life. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. If Butcher doesn't shake my hand, I'll still be alive tomorrow."
Maradona further thrilled his hosts by taking a swipe at all of his English critics by pointing out that England's 1966 World Cup final victory over the then West Germany came with the help of a Geoff Hurst goal that may not have crossed the goalline.
"England won the World Cup in 1966 with a goal that didn't cross the line so I don't think it's fair that anyone should judge me when stuff like that went on," he said.
The 'Hand of God' goal refers to Argentina's first in their 2-1 win in the 1986 quarter-final, in which Maradona used his hand to beat England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to the ball and deflect it into the net.
Butcher's lingering bitterness over the match may however be more to do with memories of Argentina's second goal. Butcher twice failed with attempts to stop Maradona as he waltzed past five English players before finally going past Shilton to claim one of the greatest ever goals.
Date created : 2008-11-19