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
Laporta’s patience was rewarded as Rijkaard turned the team around and led them to a series of brilliant successes.
As Laporta basked, Rosell brooded: the president’s leadership style was less consultative and more dictatorial than he had bargained for. In June 2005 Rosell resigned, criticising Laporta in an open letter that contained the withering observation that a Barcelona president “should work with discretion, honesty, efficacy, humility and transparency”.
In June 2010 Laporta’s second presidential term expired and Rosell won the election to succeed him. Now he would have the chance to show how a proper Barcelona president acted.
Laporta had honoured Johan Cruyff with the title of honorary president. Rosell stripped Cruyff of the title, claiming it had been unconstitutional to give it to him in the first place.
Perhaps it sticks in Rosell’s craw that Cruyff, who has had no official role at Barcelona since quitting as manager in 1996, has received more credit for their last decade of success than Rosell himself, who has been involved in running the club for much of that time.
As Cruyff said in 2011: “If you pick up any newspaper in the world and there is an article talking about the great style of Barça, my name always appears and makes me even more famous.”
Despite his skill in whipping the balance sheet into line, nobody talks about the mastermind Sandro Rosell.
Last month, Cruyff criticised the Rosell-driven decision to sign Neymar, saying the transfer risked disrupting the squad and that Barcelona should now prepare for the possibility of selling Lionel Messi.
The fact Cruyff’s comment was probably motivated by a desire to annoy Rosell doesn’t mean he didn’t have a point.
Messi’s form has been so exceptional mere brilliance might now seem rather disappointing. If he finishes next season with 30 goals, what would be a fantastic season for any other player will look like a dramatic decline in effectiveness for Messi.
Then it is easy to imagine questions arising over whether Rosell’s club is still the best place for him to be. And the rise of Bayern means that for the first time, there would be an obvious alternative club for Messi, a team where he could play with team-mates even stronger than he has at Barcelona, under a coach who knows his game better than anybody.
And by the sounds of it, Guardiola is not prepared to cut his old club any slack.