The Battle of Barça: Tito Strikes Back

Angel Martinez

Pep Guardiola spoke his mind, Sandro Rosell reacted with shock and denial, and now its Tito Vilanova's turn to tell his side of the story.

Tito Vilanova adhered to an attritional approach, biding his time as Barcelona President Sandro Rosell to make the first comments.

Now that his employer has presented his denial, the current Barcelona manager has decided to speak up about his predecessor, FC Bayern Munich Manager Pep Guardiola.

"He visited me once in New York when I'd just arrived, but during my recovery from the operation I was there for two months and I didn't see him. He's my friend and I needed him, but he wasn't there for me. I would have done things differently. I won't say anything else about this."

Tito Vilanova, AS via The Guardian

This is, of course, in response to Guardiola claiming that Barça brass "used Tito's illness to cause me damage," part of a long soliloquy the 42-year-old manager preached at a presser when FC Bayern was in Trentino.

On the surface, the Vilanova response sounds a little like communication trouble a marriage. Add the fact that Vilanova was recovering from cancer – he underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment on a recurrence of parotid gland cancer (ESPN FC) – and the fact that Guardiola managed only one visit to his friend's side during his illness makes Guardiola more at fault, especially considering their history together.

The two have known each other for 28 years, at least according to Vilanova. Guardiola and Vilanova had a parallel rise in Barcelona, both contributing to the dominance of the club. Both were hired to Barcelona B in 2007, Guardiola being the manager and Vilanova being the assistant.

The promotion of Barcelona B to the Segunda División B resulted in twin promotion of the two to the senior side, Guardiola becoming the 59th manager of the Blaugrana and Vilanova once again right at his side.

Not to say that Vilanova was on his death bed, for it's not fair to assume the severity of one's condition, but after hospitalization of any kind, all people deserve to have the person they consider close to them by their side. Guardiola used the "I'm too busy" excuse, which may be appropriate in other cases, but looks rather weak in the face of someone in need.

By the same token, the publicity of this saga still is astounding. FC Barcelona met Guardiola's original earth-shaking comments last week rather quickly with confusion and denial, and many have already tried to comprehend the malicious words. Rosell, vice-president Jordi Cardoner, and now Vilanova have verbalized the confusion in a public forum.

While entertaining for the general public, the public tit-for-tat exchange is now more a childish shouting match to a kindergarten teacher. The timing of this public dispute is also fascinating, considering Guardiola will have a reunion on the pitch with his former side in the Uli Hoeneß Cup on July 24.

If you pair the recent drama with the 7-0 aggregate Champions League bashing that Bayern walloped on to Barcelona, a glorified friendly turns into a game with something at stake.

To use a cliche, the ball seems to be back in Guardiola's court. He could smack it really hard by firing right back at his former club, but that puts him at risk of hitting the net. It may be more wise to volley the responses with more of a soft touch, which would entail him meeting privately with his former colleagues to clean the slate.

Even though both sides now have fired shots, with Barça's coming from different directions, the war does not seem to be over quite yet. That being said, as long as the transgressions on the sidelines does not spill over to the pitch, the epic between these two teams could be just a side show.

With the details of this drama oozing out like jelly in a morning doughnut, this story is worth savoring.

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