The Battle of Barça: The Pep Provocation and the Barcelona Rebuttal

Thomas Niedermueller

Lost in the sea of the Thiago talk was Pep Guadiola's aggressive remarks towards his former employers, president Sandro Rosell and FC Barcelona.

The dust may not have completely settled in the Pep Guardiola vs. FC Barcelona grudge-match, and there looks to be no casualties, but now that it is clear enough to see onto the horizon, let's look back at the Battle of Barça.

Pep did not leave anything in his arsenal when he came out against Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and his former club, leaving press at Bayern training camp on Lake Garda . He used everything from "not being left alone" to "accused of not seeing Vilanova" to "accused of trying to dissuade Neymar." Here are the bits, collected by the ESPN FC staff, from his comments.

On his sabbatical in New York:

"I told them [the president and his directors] I was going 6,000km away and asked them to leave me in peace, but they haven't kept their word. I did my time [at Barcelona] then decided to leave.

"I want them to get on with the job and I wish them all the success in the world, because their success will also be mine - I don't need to say what I feel for this club."

On not visiting Tito Vilanova:

"Too many things have happened that have crossed the line. I will never forget that they used Tito's illness to cause me damage, because it's a lie that I never saw him in New York.

"I saw him once, and the reason I didn't see him more often was because it wasn't possible, and that wasn't my fault. To say that I don't wish the best of someone who was my colleague for so many years is very bad taste, and I didn't expect that."

On Dissuading Neymar:

"I don't know the vice-president of Santos but probably his intermediaries have got this very wrong, because the information they have given him is false," he said. "I would never make any comments like those he said I made."

"The best players can always play together and those two are capable of playing together for many years."

The timing of these comments were compelling, considering that FC Bayern Munich were in the middle of transfer negotiations with FC Barcelona over Thiago Alcântara. Unfortunately for hopeful Manchester United, the altercation did not hinder the chances of the transfer going through.

The shots he fired from Trentino were like fireworks, shooting up hundreds of feet in the sky and exploding so big that everyone could see. The Barcelona Brass took exception to it, like a nude bachelor party picture that someone's college buddy put on Facebook.

Barcelona vice-president Jordi Cardoner was the suit who stepped forward to pick up the firework shards and try to piece them back together. Mundo Deportivo encapsulated Cardoner's wonderment of the motive behind Pep's comments.

"The truth is that I was very surprised. I have not understood [the things that were said].

"I imagine there will be some explanation behind these statements because the relationship between us - and I speak not only for myself but for the president too - has always been cordial.

"We have not used Tito's disease to go against him, and anyone who would do that is a bad person.

"When he announced that he was leaving, we respected it - perhaps, as Catalans, we did not understand, as we would have liked to have continued with him - but we respected him as a person.

"I am sure some erroneous information has reached him, and I guess I will talk with the president to clarify everything."

- Mundo Deportivo via ESPN FC

The power to end this war is in one person's hands, president Rosell. He could either mount an attack of his own, surrender the wasteland by not addressing the Pep attacks, or to come to a resolution with the current Bayern manager diplomatically.

Guardiola has already called him to action, through what I assume was a metaphorical bullhorn.

"If any of the things I've said is not true, come out and rebut it, but it has to be them [Rosell and the board], not intermediaries or Barcelona messengers. Them."

So far, he's vowed to stay silent, a public relations move that boarders on cliche. While common, the practice may be clever from the Catalan chief; sometimes it is better keep ones mouth shut, especially if the intent of the words that exit it are not strategically planned out.

Cardoner believes that diplomacy is still the answer, and suggested that Guardiola come over to the other side for peaceful negotiations.

"Maybe Pep should talk to the president to reduce these differences."

- Mundo Deportivo via ESPN FC

The Uli Hoeneß Cup match between July 24 FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona, a match that already was scrumptious in story lines, now has some subsidiary sprinkles on top. It is very possible that the difference between the two sides is wide enough that a resolution will not come before the two meet again in nine days time.

How does this story end? How epic will the Battle of Barça be? The answer to questions like these are never easy, but clearly the the battle left a scar.

[Update: 11:20 PM EDT, 7/15/2013]

Chapter Two: Rosell Responds With Denial

Of the three paths chosen for him, Rosell decided to combat Guardiola's comments last Thursday with a series of denials.

Everything that was addressed in his direction was once again shoved back onto the table when he did an interview with 8tv, a Catalan television station.

"I'm surprised by his comments, because when you make an accusation, you have to back it up. We would never use Tito's illness, that's what I don't understand"

"I don't know what Guardiola meant when he said we should leave him alone", Rosell added. "After he left the Camp Nou, we didn't speak again until the day I congratulated him on signing for Bayern"

- Sandro Rosell, 8tv via MARCA

Despite Rosell's refutation, the FC Barcelona president does not want his fan-base split up into two different camps.

"I call on the Barça supporters to learn from the past and remember what happened during Johan's time, when the club was split into pro-Cruyff and anti-Cruyff camps. I don't want there to be pro-Guardiola fans and anti-Guardiola fans. I want all Barça members to continue to admire Guardiola as a living Barcelona legend."

- Sandro Rosell, 8tv via MARCA

Rosell's retaliation looks well planned, his comments concise, but the fact that he decided to do so on Catalan television was an interesting tactic to employ. Vice-president Cardoner did want the two to meet to iron things out, and one could assume that he met privately.

On the one hand, the fact that he came out and said anything is a very progressive form of public relations, but denying all the charges addressed to him instead of doing so behind closed doors is very childish coming from the president of the most successful club in recent years.

This is now just more fodder for the fire, and a meaningless friendly between the biggest FCB's in the world now has become a bit less, well, friendly.

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