Guardiola, Corrie and Kelly Brook
IÃ¢ÂÂve watched Barca twice this week at the Camp Nou, first in the 1-1 draw against Racing Santander (who, trivia buffs, count singer Paul Heaton as a fan) when Thierry Henry didnÃ¢ÂÂt even make the bench and also in TuesdayÃ¢ÂÂs 3-1 win against Sporting Lisbon when he started.
These are interesting and uncertain times at Barcelona, the mood reflected by sub 60,000 crowds for the first time in president Joan LaportaÃ¢ÂÂs five-year reign. New manager Pep Guardiola is being given a chance, his bank of goodwill credit still very full with Catalans who have fond memories of him as a player and all round Catalanista.
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Guardiola was a great midfielder, criminally underrated outside Catalonia and heÃ¢ÂÂs a fascinating character, with clear ideas of how football should be played the Barca way. The Cruyff influence is clear and understandable given he joined Barca at the age of 12.
In a weird column this week, Cruyff described the Santander game as one of the best he had seen in years. IÃ¢ÂÂll bow to his far greater knowledge, but it wasnÃ¢ÂÂt.
Guardiola likes to be his own man though. Outside of football, one of his hobbies is writing poetry and he taught himself English, though heÃ¢ÂÂll never tell anyone.
The only reason I know is that the actor Lee Boardman (one time pseudo gangster Jez Quigley on Coronation Street and now voiceover man for the guilty pleasure that is Road Wars) once came to Barcelona to interview him.
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Guardiola isnÃ¢ÂÂt always happy with his lot, which includes females from Girona to Tarragona fancying the ArmaniÃ¢ÂÂs off him, and was being, well, a bit arsey with Lee, who he considered a mere journalist. That all changed when Lee told him he was an actor. Pep was then much keener to impress and Lee spoke very highly of the latest king of Catalonia.
But Laporta is a different character. IÃ¢ÂÂve never had any problems in dealings with him, but I knew him when he was a Ã¢ÂÂmereÃ¢ÂÂ fan who ran a protest group called the Blue Elephant which was trying unseat BarÃÂ§aÃ¢ÂÂs then ruling Nunez regime.
Laporta suckered up to Manchester United fans - fans he now ignores. When he was running for president in 2003 he couldnÃ¢ÂÂt speak to enough journalists Ã¢ÂÂ he told one English hack that he couldnÃ¢ÂÂt talk at that moment but suggested they went for lunch.
I suspect the English hack regrets saying that wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be possible as he had a Spanish class. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs like telling Kelly Brook that you wonÃ¢ÂÂt accept her invitation to join her in bed as youÃ¢ÂÂve just blown up an inflatable which youÃ¢ÂÂll use instead.
Kelly Brook: Almost certainly better than an inflatable
Within minutes of Racing equalising and the six-strong Santander press posse going mental - causing their Catalan colleagues to stand up and tell them to shut up as it wasnÃ¢ÂÂt appropriate to celebrate in a press box - the Barca Ultras behind the goal were singing Ã¢ÂÂBarca Yes, Laporta No.Ã¢ÂÂ
Following waves of resignations and sackings, Laporta has become a more isolated figure. Plotters are many, but the strength of anti-Laporta sentiment will depend on results.
Because, sadly, thatÃ¢ÂÂs all what most fans are bothered about.
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Andy Mitten is Editor at Large of FourFourTwo, interviewing the likes of Lionel Messi, Eric Cantona, Sir Alex Ferguson and Diego Maradona for the magazine. He also founded and is editor of United We Stand, the Manchester United fanzine, and contributes to a number of publications, including GQ, the BBC and The Athletic.
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