Garitano rewarded with Athletic contract extension after reaching Copa final

By Sports Desk May 31, 2020

Gaizka Garitano has seen his Athletic Bilbao contract extended by another season after guiding the Basque club to the Copa del Rey final.

Garitano – previously Athletic's reserve coach – was appointed until the end of the 2018-19 campaign when Eduardo Berizzo was sacked with the team in relegation trouble after 14 matches.

The former Real Sociedad midfielder took Athletic up the table and into European contention to earn the opportunity to continue in the role for 2019-20.

And another impressive outing has seen Garitano secure a further 12-month extension.

Athletic endured a three-month winless run earlier this term but were 10th in LaLiga when the season was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Crucially, Garitano's side had also reached a mouthwatering all-Basque Copa decider against rivals Real Sociedad.

"I am very happy for the confidence shown in me by the club," the coach said.

"This is the team that I have followed since childhood, from my heart. Running it is a joy and a responsibility.

"The experience lived this year in the Copa is magnificent and we have the opportunity to win a title. You have to stick with the positive things and try to improve."

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  • Diego Maradona dies: Goal of the century, World Cup glory and Napoli's talisman – his five greatest achievements Diego Maradona dies: Goal of the century, World Cup glory and Napoli's talisman – his five greatest achievements

    Diego Maradona enjoyed a stellar career, playing for some of the world's biggest clubs and instilling himself in World Cup folklore.

    The Argentina great passed away at the age of 60 on Wednesday. No cause of death was stated, though it was reported he suffered a heart attack.

    While his career was not shy of controversy, at his best Maradona was simply unplayable, and enjoyed success in South America and Europe, as well as on the international stage.

    We take a look at his five greatest achievements, from World Cup success with Argentina to an era of Serie A glory with Napoli.

     

    Bernabeu ovation

    It takes something truly special for Real Madrid fans to contemplate applauding a Barcelona player at the Santiago Bernabeu. Maradona delivered just that in June 1983, when he rounded Los Blancos goalkeeper Agustin and then, with the goal at his mercy, opted to sit the back-pedalling Juan Jose on the floor before tucking the ball home.

    Maradona was given a standing ovation when he was later substituted – something that would not be repeated for a Barcelona player in that ground for another 22 years, when Ronaldinho was similarly honoured.

    Goal of the century

    Maradona's greatest ever goal is arguably the best ever in the history of the World Cup. He made the extraordinary seem easy as a matter of regularity and, on June 22, in a 2-1 quarter-final win over England, he did just that. In perhaps a summary of Maradona the man – and the player – his moment of magic followed on from possibly his most controversial act on a pitch; the 'Hand of God' goal.

    Four minutes later, Maradona embarked on a mazy, remarkable run through the heart of the opposition and, within seconds, was coolly rounding England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to put Argentina into an unassailable lead.

    World Cup glory

    Following the win over England, 25-year-old captain Maradona led Argentina to a 2-0 semi-final victory against Belgium – scoring both goals once again – and a 3-2 triumph over West Germany in the final, as his country clinched their second World Cup crown.

    Maradona finished the tournament in Mexico with five goals and a further five assists in seven games – no player has done that since at a single edition of a World Cup.

    He went on to captain his country again at the next World Cup, Italia 1990, before featuring twice in World Cup 1994, and he holds the Argentina record for the most number of appearances in the World Cup, with 21, ahead of Javier Mascherano (20) and Lionel Messi (19).

    Triumph in Napoli

    When Maradona arrived at Napoli in 1984, the club had not won a Serie A title in their 61-year history. After scoring 14 goals to help Napoli to eighth place in his first season, and netting another 11 as they finished third in his second, Maradona was the catalyst for a historic performance from the Partenopei in 1986-87.

    They finished the season as champions, three points clear of bitter rivals Juventus, and the city exploded into celebrations that included an informal day of holiday to enjoy the moment. The triumph was by no means down to Maradona alone, but he is remembered as their inspiration and star.

    Last-gasp joy as Albiceleste boss

    Maradona's career as a head coach cut a stark contrast to his playing days, but a lack of success at the helm of Textil Mandiyu and Racing Club did not prevent him taking charge of his country in 2008. The highlight of a tumultuous two-year spell came in October 2009, when Peru came to Buenos Aires for a World Cup qualifier Argentina desperately needed to win to revive their hopes of qualifying for South Africa 2010. Maradona's decision to play Gonzalo Higuain ahead of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero proved a shrewd one as the striker gave Argentina the lead, but Peru levelled the match in the last minute through Hernan Rengifo.

    The moment called for a hero and Martin Palermo, recalled to the national team by Maradona after a 10-year absence, scored the winner deep into injury time to prompt wild celebrations on the touchline and in the stands, with the image of Maradona sliding along the rain-soaked pitch on his belly is etched into the country's memory.

  • Diego Maradona dies: UEFA to hold a minute's silence to honour Argentina great Diego Maradona dies: UEFA to hold a minute's silence to honour Argentina great

    UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says Diego Maradona "set football alight and thrilled fans young and old" and confirmed his death would be marked with a minute's silence prior to all Champions League and Europa League games this week.

    The Argentina great, who played for Barcelona, Napoli and Sevilla as well as Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors and Newell's Old Boys in his homeland, died aged 60 after reportedly suffering a heart attack on Wednesday.

    Ceferin said: "I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Diego Maradona, one of world football’s greatest and most iconic figures.

    "I was in touch recently to wish him well, and this news comes as a considerable shock to me.

    "Diego Maradona achieved greatness as a wonderful player with a genius and charisma of his own. He was a hero in his native Argentina, with whom he enjoyed World Cup glory, and became an eternal idol for the supporters of Napoli, who will never forget the successes he brought to the club during his memorable spell in Italy.

    "He will go down in history as someone who set football alight and thrilled fans young and old with his brilliance and skill. I have instructed UEFA to hold a minute’s silence in memory of Diego at this week’s matches."

  • Diego Maradona dies: How Argentina legend starred at Mexico 1986 – and was World Cup handball king Diego Maradona dies: How Argentina legend starred at Mexico 1986 – and was World Cup handball king

    Wherever you stand on football's GOAT debate, you can't deny the legacy of Diego Maradona.

    Some would place him behind Lionel Messi as Argentina's greatest ever footballer, and short of Pele in the sport's pantheon of the mighty; others would say Maradona eclipses them all. It's a debate that has raged for decades, and one that is not likely to be settled for some time.

    But nobody can argue that Maradona – who died on Wednesday at the age of 60 – produced a string of performances to rival anything the World Cup has ever witnessed in Mexico in 1986.

    From the group stage to the final with West Germany, via the 'Goal of the Century' and a brazen moment of cheating, Maradona was so far above his contemporaries that the sheer idea of anyone else winning the Golden Ball was laughable.

    Argentina beat South Korea, drew with Italy and defeated Bulgaria in their group, then saw off Uruguay, England and Belgium in the knockouts before a 3-2 final defeat of West Germany. 

    As Opta data shows, Maradona was the beating heart of the Albiceleste's second World Cup triumph.

    TAKE MY BREATH AWAY

    Gary Lineker was the only player to score more goals (six) at the 1986 World Cup than Maradona (five). That's about the only category where he did not come out on top.

    He added five assists to those five goals in his seven appearances, giving him the most goal involvements (10) of any player, ahead of the USSR's Igor Belanov (eight), and Lineker, Careca and Preben Elkjaer Larsen (six).

    It stands to reason that Maradona also created more goalscoring chances (27) than any other player. Next on the list was France's Alain Giresse (24), then Klaus Allofs (23), Michel Platini (19) and Careca (17).

    WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

    Everyone, most famously West Germany, tried to man-mark Maradona out of the equation. None succeeded.

    He completed 53 dribbles across the tournament, a tally that puts the rest of the competition to shame. The next highest number was recorded by USSR's Ivan Yaremchuk, who managed 16.

    Of course, that kind of dazzling play will always attract a more prosaic approach from the opposition. Maradona was fouled 53 times, more than double the number of anyone else (Enzo Francescoli was next on 27 fouls won).

    EDGE OF HEAVEN

    Maradona's all-round impact on proceedings could only come from a player given freedom to drop deeper and seize the ball from lesser men. It's incredible, then, that he managed 44 touches in the opposition box, eight more than the next-highest on the list, Brazil's Careca. Lineker, winner of the Golden Boot, had 31 such touches.

    Lineker and England have, of course, never forgotten Maradona's impact on their 2-1 quarter-final defeat in Mexico City. It was the scene of his greatest goal – a mazy, miraculous waltz through the heart of the opposition that ended with the bamboozling of goalkeeper Peter Shilton – and his crowning moment of infamy, when 'The Hand of God' punched Argentina into the lead.

    Perhaps that wasn't such a one-off, though. Since 1966, no player has committed as many handballs at the World Cup as Maradona (seven) – and they're just the ones the referees spotted.

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