What Cesc Walked Into at FCB; Game of Thrones – RvP Beware

Posted: May 18, 2012 in Arsenal FC
Tags: , , , , , ,

Most Gunner fans know the sordid details of the Cesc transfer through what they learned from the media over in the UK. Information from the Barcelona side would leak out from time to time last year, but it was never really reported fully over there. Why? That’s for the biased reporters in the UK to answer and for me to ask I guess. If you read me over at WTTGT you know I told you that Rossell didn’t want Cesc, that the Cesc transfer was a decision made by Guardiola and that Rosell had to acquiesce due to Pep’s run of trophies and influence. The article I wrote, here, predicted that Pep Guardiola would not make it past this year. So I naturally ask, If I knew this, and it was clear as day, how did Cesc not see what was going on? Well the whole mess starts further back then most understand so we will take it step by step and scandal by scandal and see if we can make any sense of it.

Some of this information I detailed last year in my article and subsequent follow ups, some are new revelations brought out by the Sostres in El Mundo publication and others. So let’s run it down.

From Player To Coach – LaPorta Years

As a player, Pep was given his opportunity to shine by Cruyff, on the FCB “dream team”. He spent 11 seasons in midfield for the Catalan club’s senior side, but 17 years in total as he was also in the famed La Masia academy.  He left at the end of the 2001 season under a cloud of controversy. There was rumor of an undisclosed illness and an intimate relationship with someone within the organization. Rumors of course is what fuels the news cycle over here and at that time it was in overdrive. After a few more years of playing and finally retiring in 2006, Pep was brought back by president Joan LaPorta with Tito Vilanova as his second in command to coach the B team. After only two years in charge, he was chosen as the successor to Frank Rijkaard.

The two subsequent years under then president LaPorta and Pep as coach proved to be FCB’s greatest yet. Winning a slew of trophies and accolades the team was head and shoulders above the rest in Europe. Some say it was both talent and conspiracy pointing to the many referee involvements in their matches, but the technical aspect of their play was never in question. The team had become simply, technically better than the rest and the help that did come from the referees was often a product of their constant pressure and possession. During this period the president along with Tiki Beguiristain, FCB’s sporting director, made sure to go after the targets that Pep requested. It was indeed a team effort in the front office to keep FCB at the top.

In 2010 LaPorta stepped aside after 7 interesting years at the helm of Barcelona. His replacement Sandro Rosell was more businessman than politician, with a much different view of where FCB should go. This was key to the upcoming trials and tribulations that would see many a change at the fame club.

Rosell and Pep Do Battle

Rosell came to the club and quickly began putting the blame of the mounting debt on LaPorta, announcing that he would have to get the club back in order. He then did something most thought unthinkable. Johan Cruyff was the honorary president of FCB, and in one of his first acts as president, Rosell stripped him of that title. A surreal scene followed where Cruyff, flanked by the media showed up at the headquarters of Barcelona to return the honorary title back to the club. A real lack of class that would signal a clear changing of the guard and different purpose going forward for FCB. Taking away his honorary title, marked a clear cut with Barcelona’s past as Cruyff was a legend as a player, coach and council to several presidents. Along with that display, the sporting director that was pivotal in many arrivals to the club, Tiki Beguiristain, left his sporting director’s position after 7 years at the club. All of Pep’s allies at the club, the president that hired him, the sporting director that supported his moves and the coach that gave him his chance were all gone. Pep was left with only the players as his champions and his staff, most notably his number two, Tito Vilanova.

Although the 2011 season brought more success to Barcelona, you could see the beginnings of change. Two players that Pep had brought in only a season earlier were quickly dispatched. Ibrahimovic and Chygrynski. Both were sold off at huge losses. Henry, Toure, Marquez were all given their walking papers out of the club. And several signings that were not 100% “Pep-like” were made in Adriano, Mascherano and Villa. The grumbles of an interior power struggle were already starting to hit the surface, but nothing camouflages that better than winning. The Barcelona trophy machine kept on grinding despite more controversy in the Champion’s League and also domestically. The first sign of trouble was in the semi-final versus Madrid where obvious referee blunders led to FCB progressing. Barcelona would go on to win the CL and their league but then were dealt a small blow when Real Madrid defeated them in the Copa del Rey final.

The summer was full of reports of a clear rift between Rosell and Pep, with sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta clearly in the corner of the president, but surprisingly none of this was covered in the UK media. The main issue is that Rosell is an admirer of Brazilian football, he has a clear love of it, and the players he is attracted to and interested in bringing to FCB are not the same ones that Pep had in mind to continue and expand his style of football. Pep wanted Cesc and Cazorla whilst Rosell wanted Sanchez and Neymar.

Here is where Cesc was caught in the middle. The coach of FCB, his idol, wanted him at the club. The president and the sporting director had other targets they were after. Rosell was only one year in and was going against a wildly popular coach and a player that was raised in the famed academy wanting to come home. Rosell simply couldn’t make a stand, but he could prolong the situation by making it financially reasonable for FCB. That is what finally happened. The saga went on for as long as it did because Rosell in essence, didn’t want Cesc at Barcelona. Reporters here said over and over, Cesc would be bought eventually, but it wasn’t a deal that pleased the front office. Subsequently, the hierarchy at FCB were interested, and still are in buying Neymar, which was their top priority last summer and continues to be this summer as well. The other interesting part of this equation is the deal to extend Thiago. He and his brother Rafinha are class players, and knowing Cesc was on the way, their father, Mazinho was worried about the playing time his son would get. Some sort of assurances were made, because shortly before Cesc was signed, Thiago signed a contract extension tying him to the club long-term. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall of that meeting. At last after much fanfare, Arsenal relented and sold Cesc to Barcelona, and into the hornet’s nest walked the Gunner’s ex-captain, happy to do so, but clearly ignorant of the real goings on at the core of the club he longed to return to.

The cracks that were showing before and painted over by the winning continued to manifest themselves despite a busy summer. Barcelona won several Supercopas to start the season and ended it with a defeat of Real Madrid in the league and then Santos to win the Club World Cup. What seemed to be the continuation of their dominance and apparent truce between the factions at FCB, was in all actuality the beginning of the end.

First, injuries began to take a toll on the team. Pep had worked wonders with the lack of bodies he had, but that was always masked by the quality and ability of his players to stay healthy, once the injuries came, the results where up and down and the club was quite a distance behind main rival Madrid. Reports state that as far back as October, Pep already knew he was leaving. Preparations were made to look for a successor whilst the results on the field where less than what Barcelona were used to. Internally there was bickering between president and coach and the atmosphere was less than stellar. The eventual loss to Madrid that sealed the league and then the elimination of FCB by Chelsea in the CL led to a cascade of events that shed light on a host of issues at the club.

Pep to Leave – Betrayal

On the morning after the defeat to Chelsea in the CL, Pep became aware that his number 2, Vilanova, had been in negotiations with Rosell and his staff to succeed Pep. For how long? MONTHS. Apparently Tito had been talking with the sporting director for quite some time. This was a clear betrayal by the second in command and Pep was none the wiser. He asked that his successor not be appointed until he had a chance to speak to him, even though everything was clearly worked out; on the day of the press conference to announce his departure, Andoni Zubizarreta announced Vilanova as the replacement and claimed he had talked to Pep about it. All false. As you can see in the video below, the initial reaction of the announcement by the director catches Pep by surprise…it was yet another stab in the back. By then he knew Vilanova had been negotiating, but in a subsequent press conference he told the media that it was THAT moment he was informed, like the rest of us, that Vilanova would 100% be his successor.

So what brought Guardiola to the decision to leave the club he loved a second time? Much like the first, innuendo was spread that he had an undisclosed illness and the rumor of him having an intimate relationship with someone of the male persuasion in the organization began. All of these rumors began to surface, just as they did when he first left the club as a player. His parting shots to Rosell, according to inside sources, where: “Me iré sin hacer ruido, pero si tú y tus amigos me jodéis, a mí o a los míos, hablaré todo lo que tenga que hablar.” Translated; “I will leave without making a sound, but if you or your friends f$%k with me or mine, I will talk all I need to talk.” Basically insinuating that there is much more under the surface that Pep could divulge about the situation at Barcelona.

Barcelona has since denied these reports and have even sued the paper. There are many reporters that have since collaborated, through their sources, everything that was printed in the Sostres report. These same reporters are now speculating the Vilanova may never manage a single match for Barcelona and others are even saying if these reports are true, Rosell may do well by resigning. This is going to be the summer of discontent for Barcelona and Cesc is caught smack in the middle of a power play. He has been trotted out in front of the media to give his blessing on Vilanova, but you have to wonder what is going through his head. He has already been associated to a “list” of players that are expandable by the current president and his “dream” move may yet prove to be a nightmare.

This also leads us to our present captain. Robin should take heed on the goings on at Barcelona, not because he was ever a real target for them, but to take note that his current situation is one that is stable and can only get better, not worse. Indeed, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

One has to wonder, as I stated earlier in this piece; if I could see what was going to happen, as it was obvious that Pep wouldn’t be at FCB past this year. If an insignificant blogger can see that, just by keeping on top of daily stories, local news, etc. How can an agent or a player not see the same when they are privy to much more information than us? Why would you allow your player to be a pawn in a power struggle? The Barcelona empire is crumbling, piece by piece. Arsenal’s ex-captain is caught in the wreckage and his future is uncertain, but you’ll never hear him say that. The Gunner’s present captain should take notice and sign that extension ASAP. Compared to this, life is great at AFC. Arsenal have nowhere to go but up from here, and looking at this mess, I am glad us as supporters only have to worry about signings and not about internal struggles and power plays.

Be happy Gooners, and be thankful. Come on You Gunners!

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