There will be some notable absentees from the annual Madrid gala in which trophies for the leading scorer [Pichichi], and most effective keeper [Zamora] are publicly celebrated from the previous Liga season. This in itself would not be hugely notable save for the names of the players who have chosen to boycott the event: they are none other than FC Barcelona superstars Lionel Messi and Victor Valdés.
FC Barcelona have officially announced today that Messi, Valdés [and David Villa, last season's Zarra award winner which recognizes the highest scoring Spaniard in the previous season] will not be attending Monday’s awards ceremony as part of a new club policy that limits player travel and official appearances in order to guarantee Guardiola as many players as possible in all training sessions.
But there is an interesting story that lies beneath the official communique: these player awards are officially sponsored by Madrid-based sports daily Marca. And it just so happens that Marca editor Eduardo Inda and our very own Pep Guardiola are at war with each other.
I think we can say with some certainty that there will always be some degree of antipathy between Marca and FC Barcelona. But even some Real Madrid supporters agree that Inda crossed the line in a video editorial released on the eve of last season’s April Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu where Inda urged his players to try to stop Messi by any means possible, including the criminal ["por lo civil o por lo criminal"]. Needless to say, Messi is unstoppable even by criminal means: Barcelona won the match 0-2. But the damage was done, and criticism of Inda’s incendiary statements was widespread.
This incident seemed to be forgotten. But the hostility between Inda and Guardiola was reignited after Messi’s injury this September at the hands of Athletico defender Tomáš Ujfaluši. In the press conference after that match, Guardiola again condemned Inda, urging the media to be more responsible and to protect players like Messi.
Days later, Inda was giving a speech at San Pablo University in Madrid which was unremarkable until it was time for questions from the crowd. A student asked Inda about Guardiola’s words after the Atletico match and his response was astonishing: “Guardiola, in the purest fascist style, has made me the target. If anything happens to me, he will be responsible.” Guardiola was asked about Inda’s comments and he answered saying “I don’t know this person, I have never talked to him.” Since this exchange, Guardiola’s attitude towards the Madrid press has been chilly to say the least, especially in comparison to the treatment he gives the Catalan media.
Which brings us to the present and Barcelona’s official boycott of the Marca-sponsored awards. We will never know for sure that Barcelona’s new policy is rooted in the feud between Guardiola and Inda, but something tells me that that last chapter in this battle has yet to be written.