Latin America

Maradona hints new love interest

Former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona
Maradona's ex-partner Veronica Ojeda recently gave birth to a baby boy in Buenos Aires.
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP)

Diego Maradona appears to have a new girlfriend. His ex-partner just gave birth to a baby he fathered. And the same ex-partner is also involved in a legal dispute with the Argentine football great's former wife.

In the last few days local media have been awash with news and photos about a new woman in Maradona's life, who has been identified as 22-year-old Rocio Geraldine Oliva.

Maradona, 52, has declined to confirm the relationship - but he also hasn't denied it. A photo of Maradona holding a poster with the words ''Rocio Te Amo'' (Rocio I love you), and another photo of the two toasting each over glasses of champagne have been widely circulated in the Argentine media.

''I'm fine, relaxed and in love with Diego,'' Oliva said Wednesday in a television interview. ''What others say means nothing to me.''

Reports about the new romance surfaced two weeks ago when Maradona's long-time partner Veronica Ojeda gave birth in Buenos Aires to a baby boy who was named Diego Fernando. He has already been nicknamed ''Dieguito,'' and Maradona - who is working in Dubai - has yet to return to Argentina to see him.

The child is the fifth known to be fathered by the former Argentine football great. He has two daughters from his marriage with Claudia Villafane - Dalma and Giannina. Maradona has two other children he has never recognized as his, although courts in paternity cases have ruled he's the father.

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Ojeda seemed surprised that Maradona already had a new girlfriend - but not shocked.

''We have been separated for several months,'' she said. ''The only thing that ties us is the baby. I want a father to be around, and therefore we have a good relationship.''

Ojeda has said the separation took place because Maradona did not want a child.

Ojeda is also in a legal dispute with Villafane. Ojeda claims Villafane threatened to harm her if she continued with the pregnancy. A judge has ordered Villafane to stay away from Ojeda.

Earlier on Tuesday, Maradona issued a verbal appeal to Italian authorities to clear his name in a tax evasion case, even offering to meet with the country's president.

''I didn't kill anyone,'' the Argentine soccer great said at a news conference, surrounded by his lawyers and bodyguards. ''I'm here to seek justice.''

Maradona's Italian debts of about $50 million stem from supposed unpaid taxes during the time he played for Napoli from 1984-91, a period in which he helped the club win its only two Italian league titles.

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Maradona said Napoli club officials were responsible for his playing contract with the team.

''Why do I have to pay and not them?'' he said. ''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.

''If (Italian) President (Giorgio) Napolitano wants to speak with me, I'll explain everything to him.''

Maradona's lawyer, Angelo Pisani, recently said his client won the dispute. But the collection agency issued a statement this month saying it had not ''annulled, declared extinct, nor modified'' Maradona's debts.

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