Soccer icon Diego Armando Maradona, who enjoyed some of his best years while playing for Napoli, says he has no plans to visit Italy again until he can resolve his quarrel with Italian tax authorities, who claim he owes 40 million euros ($56 million).
He is made to feel like a thief and a "fraudster" every time he comes to Italy, Maradona complained in an interview published Wednesday in Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport.
"But I haven't stolen anything from Italy and I have given the Italians only joy and entertainment on the soccer field," the Argentine player-turned-coach said.
"I would like to return to Italy without feeling like a thief and then I could think about concentrating on Italian soccer," Maradona said. "I don't deny it, I would like to coach an Italian team and if this were Napoli, a dream would be fulfilled."
Maradona, now coaching Dubai's Al Wasl club, called it unjust that he has become "the symbol of tax evasion" in Italy.
The man who led Argentina to a World Cup title in 1986 owes the Italian treasury roughly 40 million euros in back taxes from his tenure with Napoli in the late 1980s, a debt that grows larger by 3,000 euros a day thanks to interest charges.
Maradona blamed the problem on "some Napoli director" who failed to promptly inform the player - who had already left Italy - about the original tax bill.
He also urged Italian lawmakers to pass a bill "that would restore serenity and justice to me and all those like me, who are not few, who find themselves in the same conditions."