Argentina legend Diego Maradona has signed a bumper contract to continue as coach of the national football team.

Press reports in Buenos Aires yesterday said Maradona will earn €860,000 ($1.2 million) for his one-year stint as coach, which comes in at €139,000 a month and covers the period November 2008 to October 2009.

The deal means Maradona, who has worked as coach of Argentina since November 2008 but without signing a contract, will remain in the post at least until the end of the World Cup qualifiers in October.

If the former World Cup winners qualify for the 2010 showpiece in South Africa, Maradona's contract is likely to be extended.

The news will prove interesting reading for former Argentina coaches Daniel Passarella, Marcelo Bielsa, Jose Pekerman and Alfio Basile, who were all paid between 40,000 and 50,000 dollars a month.

The Argentine football federation justified Maradona's bumper pay packet by highlighting the positive influence he had on the team - attracting huge crowds even for friendly matches and thus benefiting the team's sponsors. Maradona has come in for some criticism of late, however, after Argentina slipped to fourth in the South American zone qualifying table for the 2010 World Cup.

A fifth place finish would force Argentina into a play-off, while anywhere beyond that would lead to elimination.

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