Diego Maradona has worked "like a demon" to get himself back into shape and is ready to lead Argentina in its defense of the World Cup, his trainer said yesterday.

Maradona has not been able to work out comfortably for Friday's opening game against Cameroon because of ingrown toenails and blisters on his feet.

But trainer Fernando Signorini said the South American superstar has recovered from those problems and is eager to play.

Signorini said Maradona's physical condition is as good as it was in 1986, when he led Argentina to the title in Mexico.

"Diego lost {more than 15 pounds} in a month and then he said to me: 'There is not one ounce of fat.' He was overweight two months ago, but he has great pride in himself and he's worked very hard," Signorini said.

"He's in an impeccable physical state and those who thought he is finished have the surprise of their lives coming up. He massacres himself in training and there are not enough hours in the day for him to work as he would like."

Signorini said Maradona "has recovered the speed and reflexes that make him such a special player" and that he is ready to cause "all kinds of problems" for Argentina's opponents.