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Maradona transfers to Sevilla

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SEVILLE, Spain -- A tearful Diego Maradona received his transfer to the Spanish club Sevilla Tuesday and vowed to return to the Argentine national team he once captained to a World Cup title.

The transfer from Napoli of the Italian League to Sevilla of the Spanish League ended months of wrangling during which soccer's international governing body was forced to intercede.

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The deal, announced by the president of the Spanish club, came after two days of negotiations at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Tuesday's meeting lasted nearly five hours.

'Today I start to live again as I always have and as I know how,' a tearful Maradona said at his Seville hotel on hearing the news. 'I am eternally grateful to Sevilla and to my agent. I am going to do everything I can to be captain of the Argentine national squad again.'

FIFA spokesman Guido Tognoni said Sevilla paid $7.5 million to sign the 31-year-old midfield great. Sevilla had originally offered $4.5 million while Napoli sought $9 million to $15 million.

Spanish radio reported that Sevilla would pay $3.5 million immediately and the rest in four payments over the next two years.

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Napoli President Corrado Ferlaini, speaking after a FIFA meeting, said a condition of the signing was that Maradona would not be eligble to play in Italy for two years.

Maradona, the world's best-known soccer player, played for Barcelona before his transfer to Napoli in 1984. He led Argentina to the World Cup crown in 1986 and a second-place finish in 1990.

Just over a year ago, Maradona announced his 'irrevocable' retirement and pledged never to play again for Argentina's national team.

In June, Maradona completed a 15-month suspension for cocaine use. He did not want to complete the final year of his contract at Napoli and last Thursday threatened to retire if an agreement wasn't reached between the clubs within two days.

The final negotiating session was attended by Corrado Ferlaino, president of Napoli; Luis Cuervas, president of Sevilla; and a high- ranking official of the Spanish and Italian soccer associations.

In previous transfers, Maradona moved from the Argentine club Boca Juniors to Barcelona in 1982 for $7.7 million and from Barcelona to Napoli in 1984 for $7.5 million.

Maradona will now be joining a team that finished in 12th place last season and has not won a national title since 1948. Sevilla is coached by Carlos Bilardo, an Argentine who led his country to the 1986 World Cup championship.

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Maradona has been in Seville since Sept. 13 and has begun practicing. He is expected to make his Sevilla debut at home Monday in an exhibition game against Germany's Bayern Munich.

Spanish radio reported that some 40 television stations worldwide had bought rights and that Spain's Antena 3 television will pay $1.5 million for the game.

'We will also be playing matches in other countries, including Japan and the United States, which should bring in reasonable sums,' Cuervas said.

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