Maradona in Greece for lucrative talk

Retired soccer legend Diego Maradona, whose life in more recent years has been dominated by treatment for his highly publicized cocaine addiction, arrived in Athens late Wednesday night for a two-day stay, reportedly business-related. The hero of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup title, who received drug treatment in Cuba in 2000 and managed to return to the Caribbean island last fall after a relapse confined him to a psychiatric ward in his native land, has reportedly lined up interviews with local media, both in Athens and Thessaloniki, for handsome fees. Reports said the controversial figure’s rates for television interviews stood at 60,000 euros, while newspaper and radio sessions were priced at 23,000 and 18,000 euros respectively. Despite his set media deals, Maradona, severely overweight and barely recognizable upon his arrival at Athens Airport, did not hesitate to offer reporters comments on a variety of questions, including Greece’s sensational triumph at Euro 2004. «Miracles always occur and Greece produced a miracle by winning at the European Championships,» remarked Maradona. «Greece defeated all its rivals, and that’s good for soccer when small teams win titles. That shows that this country possesses great players,» he added. Offering future advice for Greek soccer, Maradona noted: «The people must maintain their passion for soccer. Greece’s accomplishment is truly magnificent. There are lots of bad things in soccer, but the outcome at Euro 2004 is a big deal for all of us.» Maradona’s current visit to Greece is his second following a 1988 trip with Napoli, his club at the time, for a European club-level match against PAOK in Thessaloniki. The Argentinean is scheduled to travel to Thessaloniki today for an interview with a local sports newspaper. Maradona, 44, has been hospitalized repeatedly over the past four years in his battle against drug abuse. He has cited the need for greater privacy as a reason for seeking treatment in Cuba. Most recently, he has been secluded at a mental health center in a one of Havana’s quieter districts. In a television interview last month, Maradona had assured fans that he was recovering from his drug addiction.