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Maradona vows to clear name

Diego Maradona (left) looks on as his lawyer Angelo Pisani holds a picture during a news conference in Naples yesterday.

Diego Maradona (left) looks on as his lawyer Angelo Pisani holds a picture during a news conference in Naples yesterday.

Diego Maradona has returned to Naples to plead his innocence over an outstanding €40 million tax bill issued to him by the Italian justice system.

The former Argentina and Napoli striker expressed his desire to avoid persecution in the southern city, where he is held in high esteem by fans of the Serie A club with whom he won two league titles in 1987 and 1990.

Hundreds of supporters greeted the 52-year-old on his arrival at Naples airport on Monday but he declined to speak to the press about claims he owes the Italian state millions of euros in unpaid taxes until yesterday’s press conference.

Maradona said: “I want to tell everyone that I have Napoli in my very soul.

“I’ve wanted to say so for a long time now but there are people who would not let me do so.”

The 1986 World Cup-winner blames senior figures at the club at the time for the situation he now finds himself.

“Everyone who drafted my contract (at Napoli) is free today. I was out on the training field at the time but now when I come to Italy the financial authorities want to take my earrings from me,” he said.

“Why do I have to pay and not them, when I gave my life to Napoli? I am not a victim because I have earned a lot of money but I didn’t know anything about the contractual issues.

“I am facing up to the situation because I have not killed anyone.”

Maradona was ordered to pay €37.2m in unpaid taxes in 2005. Lawyer Angelo Pisani subsequently declared the debt had been cleared but tax authorities are still demanding he pays up.

Maradona is determined to clear his name so he can return to Italy with his family.

He added: “I want to come back to Italy with my grandson to watch Napoli play at the San Paolo.

“I want him to see what his grandfather did here and not be remembered as a tax-dodger, which I am not.”

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