Diego Maradona begins his European tour at Barcelona

Many questioned the wisdom of the Argentine Football Federation when they appointed Diego Maradona as their national team coach, pointing to a litany of indiscretions including Diego’s drug and health problems as reasons why the Maradona should not be given the job. But after having lead his side to victory in his debut match at Hampden Park at the end of last year, Diego is continuing to take his new role as seriously as ever, kicking off 2009 with a whistle-stop tour of Europe ahead of Argentina’s friendly match with France in February.

His port of call was to visit Barcelona last weekend, a club who have adopted a particularly thorny stance towards cooperating with international football demands. Back in November, Barca refused to release Lionel Messi for the Argentina squad that faced Scotland, leaving Maradona with the task of mending relations this weekend in order to ensure Lionel Messi’s participation in the upcoming friendly in Paris.

Footage of Maradona’s visit to the Nou Camp, including video of his meeting with Joan Laporta, can be seen here.

After Barcelona’s victory over Mallorca on Saturday, Maradona was expected to fly to Madrid to watch Real taken on Villerreal. But instead, the 48-year-old stayed behind to make an unexpected appearance at Barca’s training ground the morning after.

After initially watching the team train at La Masia from behind the fence, Pep Guardiola spotted the great man and ushered him onto the training pitch before asking him to address his squad.

In his address, Maradona was quoted as saying: “You are an example for all. You must continue playing like this. I want to congratulate you because what you’re doing has great merit and it allows everyone to enjoy football. I wish you the best. If you continue in this manner, the titles will arrive.”

After his pep-talk, Diego left the field, only to be pulled aside for a one-on-one with Guardiola himself.

Footage of Maradona’s visit to the Barca training ground can be seen here.

According to his itinerary, Maradona’s next stop will be Atletico Madrid followed by visits to Porto, Inter Milan and finally Manchester United.