Achtung Barca: Guardiola bites back – and he could get Messi
Tension between Bayern’s manager and Barcelona president Sandro Rosell may cause problems for the Catalans
Pep Guardiola, head coach of FC Bayern directed a lot of anger at his old club. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
Pep Guardiola has tried to stick to German in all his public appearances since becoming the coach of FC Bayern. As he fumbles charmingly for the right word, he comes across as respectful, diligent, eager to learn. Last Thursday he reverted to Catalan for five minutes and reminded everyone that behind the humble demeanour is a guy who won’t tolerate being messed about.
Last week, Santos vice-president Odilio Rodrigues was quoted by Brazilian media saying Guardiola tried to hijack the transfer of Neymar to Barcelona, hoping to persuade the player to join Bayern instead.
Guardiola therefore stood accused of trying to sabotage the interests of his former club, and worse, casting aspersions on the abilities of his friend and former assistant, whose work at Barcelona has been interrupted by bouts of treatment for cancer of the parotid gland.
At Thursday’s press conference at Bayern’s pre-season training camp, Guardiola was asked for his reaction. His reply was cold and furious and clocked in at over 1,000 words – longer than the article you are now reading. Guardiola spoke in paragraphs and it was plain these issues had simmered in his mind for some time.
He admitted having met with Neymar’s father, but denied trying to persuade him to join Bayern. He reserved special contempt for the suggestion he had behaved with anything other than total respect towards Vilanova.
Although Guardiola never spoke his name, everyone understood his anger was directed at Barcelona president Sandro Rosell.
This summer marks 10 years since Rosell arrived at Barcelona as part of the executive team led by the newly-elected president Joan Laporta. It was a revolution self-consciously modelled on John F Kennedy’s Camelot.
Laporta was the sunshine boy, but he would govern in consultation with a committee of the best and the brightest, and Rosell would be the biggest brain in the brains trust. Together they would drag Barcelona into the 21st century.
It’s easy to forget how much dragging had to be done. In the summer of 2003 Barcelona had slipped out of the list of Europe’s ten richest clubs – according to Deloitte, that year Barcelona had a smaller turnover than Newcastle United – and they had won no trophies for four years.
Rosell made an important contribution at the beginning. In his former job with Nike, he built a network of contacts in Brazilian football that helped Barcelona beat Manchester United to the signing of Ronaldinho, who would become the best player in the world.