Ex-Argentina captain finally sets foot back in the country where he starred for Napoli.
Diego Maradona has finally brought to an end his long-running exile from Italy, where he played for Napoli during the late Eighties and early Nineties.
The Argentine World Cup winner had rarely stepped foot in Italy since leaving under a cloud in the 1990s amid claims of collusion with mafia dons and a positive drugs test for cocaine.
It was later claimed by the Italian authorities that Maradona owed the state millions of euros (dollars, pounds) in unpaid taxes.
The former footballer arrived shortly after 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) local time at Rome’s Fiumicino airport wearing a black jacket, black suit and dark glasses.
Dozens of fans had turned up to see the Argentinian, many of whom shouted “Welcome back!” as he was driven away.
One fan in particular wearing Juventus colours caught Maradona’s attention. The champions travel to Naples to face Napoli on Friday night.
“When we used to play against Juventus, we were always scared,” Maradona is reported to have jokingly said to the fan while shaking his hand.
Maradona is set to watch his former club in Udinese on Monday and will then give a news conference on Tuesday, at which he is expected to speak about the tax issue.
Maradona was convicted in 2005 and ordered to pay 37.2 million euros ($50.4 million), including 23.5 million euros in interest for late payments.
His lawyer recently claimed the Italian authorities had cleared the debt, thus allowing him to return to the country. But the tax authorities denied the claims.
Of his tax problems, Maradona said last year: “I am not a tax fraudster. I played football and other people signed for me,” Maradona said last year.
“I am not afraid of returning to Italy. I never signed anything. The people who are really responsible are free and can walk around calmly in Naples and I can’t. That’s not fair.
“I want to return to Italy as a gentleman because I never stole anything from anyone.”
Napoli, with whom Maradona won the league title in both 1987 and 1990, currently sit second in Serie A seven points behind leaders and champions Juventus.