Diego Maradona only had tests that led to potentially life-saving surgery after he was admitted to hospital amid concerns over his mental state, his lawyer has said. 

Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata head coach Maradona, 60, underwent a "routine" operation for a subdural haematoma on Tuesday. 

The former Napoli, Barcelona and Argentina star was operated on by Dr Leopoldo Luque, who said the procedure went "very well" and that his reaction to the surgery "is promising". 

His lawyer, Matias Morla, praised Luque's actions - as well as those of fellow professional Carlos Diaz - as they perhaps saved Maradona's life as he was only tested after concerns for his mental well-being. 

"The last medical checks were excellent," Morla said after visiting Maradona in hospital, according to Ole. 

"Diego was very anxious [before the surgery] about what was going to happen and very satisfied with the work of Dr Luque, which was an impeccable operation. 

"I want to highlight something very important: the same test that was carried out on Diego yesterday, which detected this bleeding, was also carried out in September, which shows the tireless work of Dr. Luque on Diego.

"If it had not been detected by him, Maradona's fate would have been different. I want to make it very clear, mainly because of the criticism. Luque tested him in September. 

"Diego had presented a picture of depression. That's why I'm with Carlos Diaz, who was the one who treated Diego before and who noticed a mental issue. 

"In principle, [Diaz] linked it to the issue of his birthday, to a depression caused by the pandemic and the different circumstances around it. Later, upon seeing that this picture had developed, at the request of Luque and Diaz, he was hospitalised and that's where the test was made that resulted in the operation. 

"I don't know the causes of the haematoma and I'm not a doctor. What I do know is he had strange behaviour, he was very depressed, he made comments referring to relatives who died, that he missed them. He always, on every birthday, suffers from a kind of nostalgia. 

"He really misses his mother – this is always the same on the subject of birthdays – but this year it increased, so I'm here with the psychologist who intervened."

World champions South Africa are set to remain in the Rugby Championship until at least 2030 despite the suggestion they could join the Six Nations. 

Speculation around the future of the Springboks in the international tournament has increased in recent months. 

Holders South Africa withdrew from this year's Rugby Championship amid complications linked to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Australia, New Zealand and Argentina to play a three-team tournament. 

This followed South Africa's vote to withdraw domestic clubs from Super Rugby and begin talks over a move to Europe's Pro14. 

But SANZAAR, which organises both the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby, said on Wednesday all four of its nations - including South Africa - had "committed to an international rugby future through to 2030". 

The Rugby Championship will change from a six-match to 12-match structure, allowing all four teams to play each other home and away through the new mini-tour match schedule.

The move would appear to end any imminent Springboks move to link up with England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy. 

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said: "We welcome the changes announced to the Rugby Championship with our SANZAAR partners and we are looking forward to seeing what the new strategic plan for the competition entails, with possible international expansion on the cards. 

"Although we had to change our domestic focus, we still have a long history with the All Blacks and Wallabies as well as a long-standing friendship with the Pumas and we look forward to more world class Test rugby. 

"Ever since the Tri-Nations was first contested in 1996, and more recently the Rugby Championship from 2012, a team from the Southern Hemisphere has won the Rugby World Cup five out of six times - which is testimony to the high quality of Test rugby played on this side of the equator."

Diego Maradona's brain surgery was a success and the Argentina great is recovering, according to his personal doctor Leopoldo Luque.

Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata head coach Maradona, 60, underwent a "routine" operation for a subdural haematoma on Tuesday.

The former Argentina and Napoli superstar was admitted to Ipensa clinic in La Plata on Monday due to concerns over anemia and dehydration, before being transferred to Olivos Clinic in Buenos Aires province.

"I was able to evacuate the hematoma successfully and Diego tolerated the surgery very well," Luque told reporters following the emergency procedure.

"Diego is under control. He has a small drain [to remove fluid] that we are planning to take out tomorrow. His stay at the hospital will depend on his evolution.

"But the start of his recovery was great. The way he reacted after the surgery is promising."

Maradona, who won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986 and guided Napoli to two Serie A titles, has been in charge of Superliga Argentina club Gimnasia since 2019.

He appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as his Gimnasia side played a match on the evening of his birthday last Friday.

Gimnasia won their opening game 3-0 at home to Patronato.

Diego Maradona is to undergo "routine" surgery for a subdural haematoma, his doctor has confirmed.

The Argentina and Napoli great was admitted to Ipensa clinic in La Plata on Monday due to concerns over anemia and dehydration.

His personal doctor, Leopoldo Luque, said earlier on Tuesday that the 60-year-old's condition had been improving and he was keen to leave hospital.

However, after undergoing a CT scan, it has been decided that Maradona will undergo an emergency operation on Tuesday.

Providing an update, Luque told reporters: "Diego is lucid and has agreed to have surgery.

"I'll be in charge of it. It's a routine procedure. His condition is the same as yesterday, only now we've found the cause of it.

"This kind of edema is very common. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina's vice-president) had one in the past. Diego doesn't remember being hit in the head."

Maradona, who won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986, coaches local club Gimnasia y Esgrima.

He appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as his Gimnasia side played a match on the evening of his birthday last Friday.

Diego Maradona is making progress in hospital after being admitted due to concerns over anemia and anxiety, his doctor said.

The Argentina and Napoli great was admitted on Monday and is keen to leave, doctor Leopoldo Luque said.

Maradona, who turned 60 last Friday, appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as the Gimnasia side he coaches played a match on the evening of his birthday.

He does not have COVID-19 and has not suffered a relapse in any addiction, his doctor has stressed, and the 1986 World Cup winner appears to be taking steps on the road back to better health.

Luque said on Monday that Maradona's spirits were low, but on Tuesday he updated local media at the Ipensa hospital in La Plata to indicate signs were positive.

"Diego is much better than yesterday and eager to leave," Luque said, quoted by La Nacion.

"The night went well and we were joking. I want him to stay one more day. He is anemic and he still feels dehydrated, so we have to correct that.

"He is in good spirits; the idea is to improve him as much as possible. He has been walking inside the clinic."

Luque said Maradona could choose to leave hospital ahead of schedule.

"My goal is for him to stay until tomorrow. But he has autonomy and wants to go. If the patient is conscious, he can decide," Luque said.

"It is a long-term treatment and to be done on an outpatient basis. But he can work whenever he wants."

Luque said on Monday that the pressure of the last week had caused "a downfall of spirits", describing Maradona as being "listless" before he was admitted for treatment.

Diego Maradona's son is clinging to the dream of his father one day becoming coach of Napoli as the Argentina great celebrates his 60th birthday.

According to Diego Sinagra, Maradona's return to Naples would mean the club could sell out their San Paolo stadium 10 times over for every home game.

The prospect of fans in stadiums as well as Maradona holding down a job in Serie A seem remote for now; at present, he is coaching at the highest level in Argentina with Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata.

But Sinagra says having Maradona back at Napoli, the club he led to two Serie A titles and the UEFA Cup during an illustrious spell as a player from 1984 to 1991, would be a scenario he would welcome.

Asked if he could foresee Maradona coaching in Spain, Sinagra told Marca: "No, I imagine him in Naples. What a thing that would be! He would fill 10 San Paolos.

"I still have the dream of seeing my old man on the Napoli bench, but it would still be wonderful to see him somewhere else in Europe."

Sinagra, Maradona's Italian son from an extra-marital affair in the mid-1980s, was estranged from his father until he was into his 20s.

Now 34, Sinagra says many of Maradona's off-field problems can be linked to his eagerness to please.

"All the problems my old man had in his life were caused by being too good," Sinagra said.

"Sometimes, like all good people, it is difficult for him to be tough and perhaps also he doesn't know how to say no sometimes. We, the people who really love him, love him for the good things and the bad things."

Sinagra, who played lower-league football and beach football after a spell in the Napoli academy, said it had been difficult at times to be the son of Maradona.

But since being accepted by his father, he says their relationship has been positive.

"Obviously, the past cannot be erased. But we choose, by mutual agreement, not to think anymore about the things that happened and to focus on the future," he said.

"I think my dad loves me like a son. He has a great love for all his children and, of course, for me too."

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, in Mexico in 1986, Maradona produced a string of performances to rival anything the World Cup has ever witnessed.

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.

Former Manchester City full-back Pablo Zabaleta has retired from football.

The 35-year-old has been without a club since being released by West Ham at the end of June.

"After 18 years as a professional footballer I took the decision to retire from playing football," Zabaleta said in a social media post.

"These have been wonderful years that gave me the opportunity to enjoy unique and unforgettable moments.

"Forever I will thank all the people that shared the journey with me; clubs, team-mates, coaches and in particular my family and all my friends.

"With a lot of emotions I leave behind one of the best stages of my life. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!"

Zabaleta made 594 appearances at club level, starting with San Lorenzo in Argentina before moving to LaLiga with Espanyol.

He joined City in 2008 shortly before the takeover by the Abu Dhabi investment group and went on to become one of the club's most important players in a nine-year spell, popularly known as a 'warrior' figure.

Zabaleta won two Premier League titles, two EFL Cups and the FA Cup and was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year in 2012-13.

He signed for West Ham in 2017 and made a further 73 appearances in England's top flight.

In 303 Premier League games in total, he recorded 953 tackles, the most of any player in the competition since his debut 12 years ago.

A winner of Olympic gold in 2008, Zabaleta won 58 senior caps for Argentina and was part of the side that finished runners-up at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

World champions South Africa have withdrawn from the 2020 Rugby Championship in Australia, prompting the return of a Tri-Nations tournament.

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) cited factors including travel restrictions, player welfare, safety concerns and the ongoing effect of the coronavirus pandemic for pulling out.

The Springboks' absence leaves Australia, New Zealand and Argentina to challenge for this year's title.

It is a blow ahead of the tournament, and means the Tri-Nations returns eight years after Argentina joined to extend the competition to a four-team event.

SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said: "SANZAAR [the competition organisers] and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them and their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer.

"This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the ongoing impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges."

With a Tri-Nations return, six international matches will be played in Australia across six consecutive weekends.

The Tri-Nations will see each nation play each other twice, with games to be held in Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle – starting on October 31 between the Wallabies and All Blacks at ANZ Stadium.

The first two matches involving Australia and New Zealand double up as the final two Bledisloe Cup matches.

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said: “COVID is just a gift that keeps on giving! Naturally, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks, due to the continued complexities of operating in and around this COVID environment, cannot fully compete in the previously planned six-round Rugby Championship.

“That said, this now presents us with a unique opportunity, in this our 25th year, to close off 2020 with a Tri-Nations competition."

Lionel Messi said he is less obsessed with scoring goals these days as the Barcelona and Argentina superstar eyes team success.

Messi stands alone atop the all-time goalscoring charts for both LaLiga giants Barca and powerhouse South American nation Argentina.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner improved his record-setting international tally to 71 goals after netting in Argentina's 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Ecuador last week.

But Messi is prioritising team objectives, telling La Garganta Poderosa magazine: "Today I am less obsessed with scoring. I try to do my best for the team."

Messi is Barcelona's all-time leading goalscorer with 635 in total, having debuted for the Spanish club in 2004.

Of those goals, 445 have come in LaLiga – a league record ahead of next best and former Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (311).

The 33-year-old has also scored 115 Champions League goals, to go with 53 in the Copa del Rey, 14 in the Supercopa de Espana, three in the UEFA Super Cup and five in the Club World Cup.

Since debuting against Espanyol 16 years ago, Messi has won 10 LaLiga trophies, six Copa del Rey titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

In 2020-21, Messi has one goal through three LaLiga fixtures as Barca – under new head coach Ronald Koeman – look to bounce back following a tumultuous campaign, which saw the club dethroned by bitter rivals Madrid and humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Messi remains at Barca, despite handing in a transfer request at the start of the season amid strong links with Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

South Africa have been given a 48-hour deadline to decide whether they will compete in the Rugby Championship.

The Springboks are due to start the defence of their title against Argentina at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on November 7.

Rugby South Africa (RSA) last week said "several hurdles needed to be cleared" before the organisation can confirm that the world champions will feature in the four-nation competition.

Concerns have been raised over a lack of playing time for South Africa players due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tournament organisers SANZAAR on Wednesday stated that a decision must be made within two days.

A SANZAAR statement said: "The SANZAAR member unions have agreed to provide South Africa Rugby with an additional 48 hours to finalise its internal stakeholder discussions.

"This will now delay the scheduled departure of the Springboks from South Africa to Australia.

"SANZAAR will provide an update on the resolution of these discussions and a timetable for the Springboks participation in the Rugby Championship when available in the coming days."

Lautaro Martinez lauded Argentina's character after a 2-1 win over Bolivia in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Joaquin Correa scored a 79th-minute winner for Lionel Scaloni's men, who made it two wins from two to begin their qualifying campaign.

It marked Argentina's first victory in Bolivia since 2005 as they claimed an important win in the altitude of La Paz.

Martinez, who became the first Argentina player not called Lionel Messi to score in a World Cup qualifier since November 2016 when he cancelled out Marcelo Martins Moreno's opener, was delighted.

"We knew the game was going to be like this. I think this team today showed a lot of heart and a lot of head," the Inter forward said.

"We are very happy."

Martinez added: "We had thought about what this game meant for us because of the history.

"We are not going to deny that it is difficult to play here, it changes a lot."

Martinez also set up Correa's winner as Argentina backed up their narrow victory over Ecuador.

Argentina coach Scaloni was also pleased with his substitutes, with Correa among them as he netted his second international goal.

"With the changes we always try to improve," he said.

"They gave us freshness and they entered very well."

Joaquin Correa came off the bench to score the winner as Argentina came from behind to defeat Bolivia 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Argentina fell behind in the altitude of La Paz, which is situated at 3,650 metres above sea level, when Marcelo Moreno Martins found the back of the net after 24 minutes.

Parity was restored before half-time as Jose Carrasco's clearance cannoned in off Lautaro Martinez, who became the first Albiceleste player not called Lionel Messi to score in a World Cup qualifier since November 2016.

Correa replaced Lucas Ocampos just before the hour mark and fired home the winner with 11 minutes remaining, with Argentina claiming their first victory in Bolivia for 15 years.

Martins had a chance to put Bolivia ahead in the sixth minute but headed Saul Torres' looping delivery wide with Franco Armani scrambling.

Bolivia threatened regularly and got their reward when Martins was left in space by Lucas Martinez Quarta and nodded Alejandro Chumacero's cross beyond Armani.

Leandro Paredes saw a curling 20-yard strike crash back off the post before Argentina drew level in bizarre circumstances when Carrasco's laboured attempt to clear Martinez's cutback ricocheted in off the Inter attacker.

Argentina sat back after the restart and looked to counter-attack as Bolivia went in search of a second goal.

Chances were at a premium until Messi's delightful throughball fashioned one for Martinez in the 75th minute. However, his cross-goal effort from the right side of the area was turned behind by Carlos Lampe.

There was nothing Lampe could do to keep out Correa, though, with the goal allowed to stand after a VAR check confirmed Martinez was onside from Messi's pass, meaning Argentina left with maximum points from their two qualifiers.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has compared playing football in La Paz to "drowning" as he braces his team for the challenge posed by competing at altitude in Tuesday's clash with Bolivia.

La Albiceleste will be hoping to build on their winning start to World Cup qualification on, having beaten Ecuador 1-0 on Friday.

But up next is one of the trickiest tasks on the South American football calendar; getting a result in La Paz.

It is situated roughly 3,650 metres (11,975ft) above sea level, making La Paz the highest capital city on Earth and consequentially causing some visiting athletes to struggle due to the air pressure.

Unacclimatised individuals are known to suffer from breathlessness much faster at such altitudes, giving Bolivia a significant advantage in some home matches.

Never has this been more applicable than when Bolivia thrashed Argentina 6-1 in 2009, despite the visitors having the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Zanetti and Javier Mascherano in their starting XI.

Argentina's last trip to La Paz in 2017 resulted in a 2-0 defeat, and with their squad vastly different this time around, Scaloni – who played in their most recent away win in Bolivia 15 years ago – is preparing the team for a gruelling challenge.

"I am going to talk about it with the players one by one," Scaloni said. "We are going to evaluate everyone.

"Before we get to the pitch, we will not realise how players react. Coming two days before the match, the idea was to notice [the effects on individual players].

"We need the players at 100 per cent. If there is a player who is not at 100 per cent, I will speak and make the best decision for the team. The important thing is the hour and a half before the game.

"There is no formula, whether you come the day before the game or two days before. You have to spend 20 days training to have a physical condition equal to theirs.

"Drowning. All the players are going to drown. The issue is the feeling that each one has. We are doing everything possible so that they can get to the game in the best way."

Scaloni's plan for the match will seemingly hinge heavily on captain Messi, with the Argentina coach emphasising the importance of retaining possession and exploiting set-pieces.

"I spoke with everyone and with Lionel Messi in particular," he continued. "There are players who suffer more, others who suffer less, due to physical and training issues.

"We prepare the game in a way that we think can go well. It is a football match. We have a clear idea, we transmit it. The important thing is the journey of the ball.

"We have to use all our weapons. We try to take away the anxiety. We have enough to come here and be at 3,000-odd metres. The more you have the ball, the better.

"When we won in 2005, we scored goals from set pieces. They were specific situations and the game was defined there. We emphasise that."

Argentina and Bolivia have met 20 times in World Cup qualifiers – all five of the latter's victories coming at home.

Similarly, Argentina have only won on three of their 10 trips to La Paz and that 6-1 defeat 11 years ago is the joint-largest defeat in their history.

Lionel Scaloni sensed anxiety in the Argentina ranks as his team began their Qatar 2022 World Cup mission with a 1-0 win over Ecuador.

Victory came courtesy of Lionel Messi's early penalty after Lucas Ocampos was impeded, with Argentina far from their best at La Bombonera.

A home game in Buenos Aires behind closed doors was an uncomfortable way to start the road to the finals, and Argentina's next game will be no easier as they travel to La Paz to face Bolivia on Tuesday.

Yet Scaloni, who pointed to seven players making their first appearances in World Cup qualifying games, was just happy to get the victory.

"We won, which is the most important thing to start a competition of this calibre," he said. "The conditions weren't easy, with a fast pitch and no fans, added to the difficulties of not having been together for so long.

"There are things to highlight and others to improve. I'm left with the desire, with the sacrifice. We will have time to work. The important thing was to get the result forward.

"There were many players who debuted in qualifiers today. It's not easy to play with this shirt and anxiety is typical of that situation.

"We were clear that this could happen because it was the first game. They took a great step when they made their debut and won."

Bolivia scored a 2-0 home win over Argentina in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, and going to high altitude next week will be a serious test for Scaloni's team.

"We're going to see how the players recover and then we will think about Bolivia. We know that it is a game with conditions different from all the others," Scaloni said.

Argentina are now unbeaten in their last eight matches, while Messi took his tally to 71 goals for La Albiceleste.

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