ROME — Argentine soccer icon Diego Maradona’s fancy footwork riveted Italians in the 1980s and, more recently, on pubcaster RAI’s “Ballando con le stelle” (Dancing With the Stars).
But, to RAI’s dismay, the 44-year-old — recently reinvented as a TV star, after battling drugs and obesity — abruptly ended his “Dancing” gig last week, less than a month after his debut.
The reason? Local tax authorities have confiscated Maradona’s pay.
They say Maradona owes $35 million in back taxes from his days at Napoli, the team where he spent most of his career.
Maradona appeared on “Dancing” via satellite link from Buenos Aires to apologize to 6 million Italians for pulling out, blaming poor health, which at the time seemed plausible.
Since August, he has been hosting talkshow “La noche del 10” (The Night of the 10) on Buenos Aires broadcaster Artear-Canal 13. Handling both engagements made a gruesome timetable.
With Maradona cutting the rug, “Dancing” trounced Hollywood blockbuster “Gladiator” on Mediaset’s Canale 5 with a 40% share and consistently won the Saturday-night race since.
The show’s perf sans Diego is likely to be less stellar.
“Unfortunately, I doubt he’s going to be back,” a RAI spokeswoman said last week.