Rosell fires shot across Real's bow

Barcelona president promises institutional severing of ties if provocation persists

Sandro Rosell, the Barcelona president, chose to keep his own counsel during the season over a series of provocations issuing from the Bernabéu out of what he described as "social and sporting responsibility." He confirmed as much during an extensive press conference on Thursday afternoon at Camp Nou. But the dapper Rosell reserved the right to throw a tantrum. Although he explained that the public rebuke delivered to Real Madrid did not represent a breaking of relations, because "Barcelona always gives second chances," Rosell laid out in no uncertain terms his club's stance on last season's repeated provocation from Madrid. The most serious of the accusations generated over the course of a fractious season in which the two clubs faced off five times on the field were allegations of doping, which were broadcast on Catholic Church-run radio station Cadena Cope - charges that Real did not immediately distance itself from - and the assertion of Real coach José Mourinho that he would be "ashamed" to win the Champions League in the manner of Barcelona, aided and abetted by biased referees, in the estimation of the Portuguese.

"They provoked us, but we put up with it. Our team has managed to be admired the world over for the values that we represent: dignity and honor. Real Madrid, however, made a series of accusations with only one objective: to achieve off the field what it could not achieve on it, through accusations with no basis and no scruples," Rosell said. Barcelona responded to the serious allegation of institutionalized doping of its players with a lawsuit against Cadena Cope. Another damaging claim, that some of Barça's players racially insulted Real team members during the ill-tempered Champions League semifinal, was met with an official complaint to Uefa, which duly dismissed the charges. Rosell claimed that Real's complaint was launched "in an attempt to prevent certain players from taking part in the Champions League final."

And Rosell made it patently clear that enough was now enough. During the press conference, in which he did not publicly absolve his opposite number Florentino Pérez, Rosell asked that situations like these do not repeat themselves next season. "Real Madrid has overstepped the boundaries of sporting rivalry," Rosell stated. "If they do so again, we will be obliged to sever our institutional relations, something we do not desire but that we will not hesitate to do," he added, with Barcelona's entire board of directors present.

In regard to the official purpose of the conference, a review of the season, Rosell pinpointed three moments as the most satisfying: the 5-0 Camp Nou clásico win over Real, "which turned the world on its head;" the Champions League final win over Manchester United; and the return to the team of Éric Abidal after surgery to remove a liver tumor. The most awkward sporting decision, Rosell said, was to let Zlatan Ibrahimovic return to Italy after just one season at Camp Nou, an operation that cost Barcelona 50 million euros.

Asked about the possible arrival of Cesc Fàbregas at Camp Nou, Rosell claimed he had no knowledge of any interest in the Arsenal captain because Andoni Zubizarreta was in charge of transfer dealings: "I don't know if we are interested in [Villarreal striker Giuseppe] Rossi, nor Alexis [Sánchez, the Udinese forward] nor in Cesc," he asserted, adding a warning that the club would only pay what it thought right for any player. "We will not push the boat out. If last year we offered 40 million euros for Cesc, a year later, with the depreciation of the player, he is not now worth 40 million euros."

Rosell confirmed Barcelona has 45 million euros available for transfers, although it could raise more through sales, and only in extraordinary circumstances would the club dip into next year's budget to fund new players. The president said this was not something the club wished to do as its objective is to reduce its debt, which stands at 483 million euros.

Sandro Rosell, president of Barcelona, at the press conference.
Sandro Rosell, president of Barcelona, at the press conference.ALEJANDRO GARCÍA (EFE)
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