But a championship, against all expectations, would be something truly sweet, a chance to answer lingering questions about greatness, a chance to secure his reputation as D10S for all time.
"It would be safer to stay home and accept the adoration and love of a soccer-loving public," Maradona says in a television commercial currently airing in Argentina. "It would be safer to sit atop all my glory. But that wouldn't be me."
In recent weeks, Maradona's antics have continued. He ran over the leg of a TV cameraman with his Mini Cooper, then called the victim an idiot. He promised (some may say threatened) to run naked around Buenos Aires' 220-foot-tall Obelisk landmark should Argentina win the World Cup. And he made it known that his players would be allowed to have sex with their wives or girlfriends in South Africa, but that they should keep nighttime consumption of champagne or Cuban cigars to a minimum.
"If he didn't say such things, he wouldn't be Maradona," said Diego "El Chavo" Fucks, a soccer commentator and columnist in Buenos Aires who has covered six World Cups.
Now, with Maradona's team in Pretoria, South Africa, preparing to face Nigeria on Saturday, soccer's fallen archangel once again is at the center of it all.
Can he on the sideline do what he did on the field, joining Germany's Franz Beckenbauer as the only man to win the World Cup as a player and a coach?
And if he does, will his glory overshadow that of his 23 players?
"Today's football has overvalued the role of managers, who apply complicated scientific formulas to direct their teams," said Galeano, the Uruguayan writer.
"The best I ever met was named Coppola. He was the barber in the Uruguayan town Nico Pérez, and he was coach of the town's team. His tactical and strategic plan was limited to saying to the players: 'Good luck, boys.' "
Times staff writer Grahame L. Jones contributed to this report.