Diego Armando Maradona has declared that he has come to Italy to ask for justice so he can walk freely in the country where he spent seven years as a player.
The Argentine arrived in Italy on Monday, the first time he had stepped foot in the country for four years. He has been charged with avoiding 30 million euros in tax between 1985 and 1990, when he was a Napoli player. He originally owed 13 billion lira, and the amount has increased after gathering interest due to delayed payment.
Speaking at a packed press conference in Naples on Tuesday, 'El Diez' protested his innocence and also spoke about footballing matters, declaring that he was a better player than compatriot and Barcelona forward Leo Messi.
He said: "I want to return to Italy with my grandson so he can see Naples. I want him to see what his grandpa did and for him to not be remembered as a tax dodger. I want to believe that justice exists. I want justice so I can walk freely in Italy and Naples.''
Maradona still attracts a huge following in Italy, especially in Naples, where 300 fans waited for him outside the hotel where he gave the press conference, chanting his name.
"I want to tell you all that I still feel the air of Naples in my body," he added.
"I have wanted to come here for a very long time, but someone wouldn't let me. The people who agreed my contract are walking free. I just went out onto the pitch, but now every time I go to Italy the financial police turn up and confiscate a watch or some earrings from me. Why do I have to pay and not them? I'm a victim because I earned a lot but I didn't know anything about contractual questions. I'm showing my face because I didn't kill anyone."
Maradona reitereated that he was "innocentt" and insisted he "did not owe one lira" to the Italian tax authorities, and said he was not going to meet with the Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentis or the mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris.
Maradona also spoke about football in the press conference, praising fellow Argentine and four-time Ballon d'Or winner Leo Messi, but affirming himself as the best.
He said: "I hope that Messi can win the World Cup for Argentina, but it won't be easy, because everyone knows all about him. In the last game, AC Milan built a cage for him. For me he is a great lad, but I still think that I was the best."