SOCCER

Guardiola lashes out at Barça president

Former coach asks Rosell to “leave him in peace”

Ex-Barça coach Guardiola directs a training session with his new club Bayern Munich.
Ex-Barça coach Guardiola directs a training session with his new club Bayern Munich.CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP

Bayern Munich had just finished a pre-season training camp in Lake Garda in Italy and Pep Guardiola appeared before the media to sum up his first few days as coach of the German soccer champions. In the press room, an Argentinean journalist asked Guardiola about remarks made by the vice president of Brazilian soccer club Santos in which he allegedly doubted the ability of his successor at Barcelona and his once right-hand man, Tito Vilanova, to get the best out of Neymar, whom Barça has just signed from the Brazilian side.

The journalist’s question appeared to catch Guardiola at the end of his tether and during the next four and a half minutes, Barcelona’s most successful coach complained in his own inimitable fashion about the unfair treatment meted out to him by Barça’s president, Sandro Rosell, and the club’s board of directors ever since he gave up the reins at Barcelona and took a year’s sabbatical with his family in New York.

“I don’t know the vice president of Santos. His middlemen are very wrong; the information they gave you is false. I would never dare to make a comment along the lines he says I did,” Guardiola began. “Three years ago, I spoke to Neymar because president Rosell told me I should try to persuade him to sign for Barcelona. I met with him at the Golden Boot ceremony in Zurich and we talked about football, [Barça’s] match against Santos and his idea of the game.

“When I was appointed coach of Bayern Munich, I wanted to know what his situation was, and I set up a meeting in New York with his father. After five minutes, I became aware that his intention was to sign for Barcelona.”

The Bayern coach is looking to sign Thiago, who has told Barça he wants to go

Guardiola revealed that on that occasion and in two previous meetings he told Neymar “at least 20 times” that it would be good for him to join Barcelona and insisted in those three encounters that “the name of Tito Vilanova never came up.”

Without missing a beat, Guardiola turned his attention to Rosell. “I told him I was going 6,000 kilometers away and that they should leave me in peace, but they didn’t keep their word. There have been too many things that have gone beyond the score. They used Tito’s illness to get at me and I won’t forget it. It’s a lie that I wouldn’t see him in New York. I saw him and if I didn’t meet up with him again, it was because it wasn’t possible, not because of me. To argue that I didn’t want things to go well for someone [Vilanova] who was my colleague for so many years is in very bad taste and I didn’t expect it.”

Guardiola urged both the coaching staff and the board of Barça to take things easy. “I left; I have no grudges and I only ask to be left in peace. I asked them to go their own way, that they leave me in peace and stop using me and my friends to do me damage. If I want to have dinner with Cruyff, I will have dinner with Cruyff. I don’t owe anything to anyone. I did my work as best as I know and as best as I could. Now it’s up to them to do the best they know how to do,” he added in Catalan without stopping for breath.

Guardiola also confirmed that he had asked Bayern Munich to sign Barça player Thiago, whose buyout clause is 18 million euros. “I spoke with [Bayern general manager Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge and [director of sport Matthias] Sammer. It’s Thiago and no one else. He’s a super player and can play in three or five positions.” Thiago has told Barça he wants to go to Bayern.

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