UK & World News

  • 26 February 2013, 11:32

Maradona Mobbed As He Returns To Naples

Football legend Diego Maradona has been mobbed on his return to Naples, where he is expected to address the issue of his 32m unpaid tax bill conviction.

The Argentine World Cup winner has rarely set foot in Italy since leaving under a cloud in the 1990s amid claims of collusion with mafia dons and a positive drugs test for cocaine.

It was later claimed by the Italian authorities that Maradona owed the state millions of euros in unpaid taxes.

But he is still worshipped by fans of Napoli, the club he guided to its only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.

Hundreds of fans - some holding shirts with their idol's name printed on the back - turned up to greet the Argentinian as he arrived in the city, with many shouting "welcome back!" as he was driven away.

Maradona later watched his old club, featuring Slovakian Marek Hamsik, draw 0-0 with Udinese and told reporters outside a restaurant: "I am delighted to be back in Naples. I saw the game. Unfortunately Hamsik did not score."

The former Napoli captain is due to give a news conference later, where he is expected to speak about the tax issue.

Maradona was convicted in 2005 and ordered to pay 37.2m euro (32m), including 23.5m euro (20m) in interest for late payments.

His lawyer recently said the Italian authorities had cleared the debt, thus allowing him to return to the country. But the tax authorities denied the claims.

Of his tax problems, Maradona said last year: "I am not a tax fraudster. I played football and other people signed for me.

"I am not afraid of returning to Italy. I never signed anything. The people who are really responsible are free and can walk around calmly in Naples and I can't. That's not fair.

"I want to return to Italy as a gentleman because I never stole anything from anyone."

Napoli spent years in the doldrums after Maradona's departure but have enjoyed a resurgence and currently sit second in Serie A, seven points behind leaders and champions Juventus.

The footballer is best-remembered in the UK for scoring the controversial "Hand of God" goal and one of the greatest solo efforts of all time in Argentina's 2-1 World Cup win over England in 1986.