Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has caused a stir with criticism of his former bosses at Barcelona. Guardiola accused the Camp Nou management team of using the illness of trainer Tito Vilanova against him.
The Spanish media on Friday reacted with surprise, and some consternation, to Guardiola's criticism of the Catalan club's leadership.
In a press conference on Thursday, the 42-year-old winner of 14 trophies with Barcelona had said that club president Sandro Rosell's management team had sought to damage him in the media. Worst of all, Guardiola said, the management team at his old club had tried to use current Barca coach Vilanova's cancer to do so.
"This year, there have been too many things that crossed the line, but using Tito's illness to damage me is something I will never forget," Guardiola said in a press conference at Lake Garda, where Bayern are in preseason training. Guardiola did not aim his criticism at any one individual.
Vilanova missed three months of Barca's season after taking over from his former colleague, who took a year-long sabbatical in New York at the end of his successful tenure. Guardiola denied that he had failed to see Vilanova when he was being treated in the same city for salivary gland cancer.
"I saw Tito in New York and if we did not see each other on other occasions it is because it was not possible, but not on my part," Guardiola said.
"The only thing I asked Rosell was to leave me in peace and they have not left me in peace even from 6,000 kilometers away," Guardiola said. "They have not done it. They have not lived up to their word."
Relations 'always cordial'
Barcelona's vice president, Jordi Cardoner, denied that he had ever criticized Guardiola and expressed surprise.
"We have not used Tito's illness to go against him and whoever does such a thing is a bad person," he told the Barcelona-based sports daily Mundo Deportivo. Cardoner added that he had always thought relations between himself, Guardiola and Rosell had always been cordial.
Guardiola also denied reports that he had told the father of new Barcelona star Neymar that Vilanova would struggle to play the Brazilian with Argentine Lionel Messi in the same squad.
He also used the conference to make public his desire to sign the young Barcelona talent Thiago Alcantara for Bayern. "Either Thiago, or nothing," said Guardiola, noting the 22-year-old player's quality and ability to play in five different midfield positions.
'Declaration of war'
The comments were snapped upon by the Spanish media. Catalan daily sports newspaper "Sport" splashed with the headline: "Pep declares war and takes Thiago with him."
Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo reported that Barca's ex-trainer had now shown himself to be an enemy of the club.
"The attack was unnecessary. The management has always behaved well with Pep in public, but Barcelona is more than any individual and clubs know better than to wash their dirty linen in public," read an editorial. "Yesterday, Pep ignored that principle."
Thiago has a contract until 2015, but is reported to have an 18-million-euro ($23 million) buyout clause.
rc /slk (SID, dpa)