Our man in Spain explains why Pep Guardiola is like the Incredible Hulk
There's a Bruce Banner quality about Pep Guardiola. For 99.9% of the time the new Bayern boss is amiable, shy and respectful. But give the Catalan coach a hard enough prod and poke and suddenly it's 'Pep Smash!'
The last time Pep produced ranting genius was during the 2010/11 Champions League semi-finals. Jose Mourinho had pushed the Barça boss to the potty-mouthed limit with jibes about the value of his adversary's previous Champions League wins. The latest occasion is more concerned with what lies beneath in the gloomy waters of Barcelona politics.
It's all to do with the tittle-tattle fed to newspapers by Guardiola's opponents, claimed the Bayern manager on Thursday in a rant lasting a good five minutes ' a monologue about false stories and what Pep perceives to be attempts from Sandro Rosell to undermine him and besmirch his reputation.
'When I left Barcelona, I told the president that I was going 6,000 kilometres away and wanted to be left in peace,' said Guardiola, 'but he couldn't do it.' What really seems to hurt the former Barça boss is gossip and scurrilous stories in the Catalan capital suggesting that although Tito Vilanova and Guardiola were in New York at the same time ' one receiving medical treatment and one on sabbatical ' the latter didn't make the effort to make many visits. 'Tito's illness was used to hurt me. I'll never forget that.'
Rosell is set to respond to Guardiola's complaints on Monday evening in a TV interview, but the affair has caused the jitters in the Catalan media, who are all too aware of the damage that institutional in-fighting can do to an unstable institution like Barcelona.
Sport's Josep Maria Casanovas claims that 'Pep and Sandro were never friends, never had a relationship of confidence, never had faith in each other. It's a total divorce similar to that between Rosell and Cruyff,' a reference to the constant battle between the old and current regime at the Camp Nou club.
'Guardiola's words damage Barça, Bayern and Pep himself,' fretted Joan Vehils in the same paper. 'The worst thing about this though is that Madrid will be rubbing their hands.'
Mundo Deportivo's mood was just as worrisome but the paper still aligned itself with Rosell. 'The attack was unnecessary. The board have behaved well publicly with Pep,' finger-wagged Santi Nolla, overlooking a comment made by Barcelona spokesman Toni Freixa on April 19 that 'Tito Vilanova is outdoing Guardiola in every area.' Oops.
The wrath of Guardiola continued with the announcement that Bayern would imminently be buying Thiago Alcantara for €25m. The midfielder was reportedly looking for more playing time, and apparently Guardiola is offering it.
This transfer will cause triple temper tantrums in the Catalan capital. First off, the old boss is poaching a fine (if wantaway) player. Secondly, Tito Vilanova could probably do with Thiago's presence in another challenging season to come. But worst of all is the knockdown, one-summer-only fee, caused by a lack of playing time last season.
'Someone should bear the responsibility that this buy-out clause went from €90m to €18m as if by magic,' fumed Sport's Josep Maria Casanovas. 'If we take into account that Madrid paid €39 million for an almost unknown Asier Illarramendi, then the Thiago departure is bad business.'
It's fair to say that with Barcelona due back in training on Monday, Barcelona bosses are going to have an awful lot to answer for over the next few days with Pep rocking the club's boat.