Andoni Zubizarreta, FC Barcelona’s Sporting Director for football, spoke recently on Esport3’s ‘Hat Trick’ program. During the show, the former Basque goalkeeper analyzed this past season, discussed Pep’s decision to leave and the appointment of Tito Vilanova, and he also spoke about the upcoming transfer window.
As for how the season has progressed, he began by noting that “we are obliged to always try for titles. We did very well in the Spanish Super Cup. We won the European Super Cup. The Club World Cup has also given us a lot. And later, there’s the [King's Cup] final, an occasion we still have to play, in the Liga we fought for the title with Madrid, and we won at their Stadium. The only thing lacking was the cherry on top [the finishing touch]. In the Champions, the elimination to Chelsea shows that football is unpredictable, full of surprises. This year we have not won these trophies. We hope to win the Copa.”
Besides analyzing the season, Zubizarreta also described the process surrounding Guardiola’s resignation and the announcement of the name of his replacement: “What Pep said at the press conference that confirmed that Tito would be the next coach happened on that Friday, the day of the press conference. It’s true. We spoke with Tito on Wednesday. From Wednesday, there were many meetings, there were hours that felt like months. On Friday, Tito confirmed that he would accept the position and this was the moment in which Pep was also informed about the offer.”
Zubi also explained that “Pep will help us wherever he is, even if it’s from Australia.” On the words of Joan Laporta accusing the directors of not doing everything possible for Pep to stay, he stated that “I’m not one to answer to Laporta. Pep himself said we did everything possible to have him continue,” but the exhaustion of the coach was decisive.
On the appointment of Tito, and the transition that will take place, Andoni explained: “we intend to maintain the legacy of Pep Guardiola. We aim to continue the line that has been marked.”
The sporting director for FC Barcelona also dismissed the speculation surrounding the deterioration of the relationship between Guardiola and Vilanova: “I know the conversations that we had and that Friday morning: Tito, you have to do it, you have to take it (Pep to Tito). All the rest, I think is an excessive exaggeration. All the other speculation wishes too much for this case to be like others because that is much simpler.” In this regard, he said that, outside of the strictly sporting world, Tito has a different profile compared to Guardiola and will be “responsible only for the footballing part because he’s different from Pep. We will help and protect [him] in any way that we can,” he added.
According to Zubizarreta, “now we will see as we reorganize, understand how Tito works, who will be constantly compared to Guardiola. We need to see things as they are and not what we want them to be.”
On the future of the squad, Zubizarreta noted that, until after the final of the King’s Cup, no decisions will be made: “With Tito we will begin [our planning] after the 28th. All the other questions are speculation.” In response to recent rumours naming Lobera as Tito’s assistant for next year, Zubi responded: “Lobera as the assistant coach? Until the 28th we won’t discuss any of the options. We’ll look for things that will help the coach to do his job better,” stated Zubizarreta.
Also, he ruled out the interest of other clubs for some of FC Barcelona’s current players: “We have no players to be transferred, nor have we had offers for Alves, Pedro or Piqué. In the years that I’ve been at Barça, four offers have been the maximum I’ve had on the table.” He commented that “Alves is our player, he renewed recently, this past year he seemed irreplaceable and in principle we have no intention of selling him.”
On possible signings, the Basque explained that “I don’t know the amount with which we’ll be provided in the summer. It is not an inflexible matter. It depends on the signings that are available.” The only signings confirmed so far for next season are youth products Montoya, Bartra, and Muniesa because “they have first team contracts”. He firmly stated that “next season we will have the squad that we want.”
The Sporting Director did “categorically deny that we have a preliminary agreement or that we have met with Jordi Alba. If there are two club that I respect they are Athletic and Valencia, which is where I’ve played.” He also denied that Barça has paid something for Neymar to arrive at the blaugrana club in 2014.
Responding to some words dismissive of Guardiola’s contribution from the Spanish capital, the Sporting Director said, “I don’t understand Karanka’s statements. There are things beyond the results, such as a contribution to football, a business that we are all in. Recognizing that someone has done an exceptional job is basic.”
Andoni Zubizarreta revealed an informal conversation he had Pep Guardiola a few weeks ago when “Òscar informed us that he was leaving and the Juvenil position was free and I offered it [to Pep]. He looked at me and thought about it for a moment, but it was more of a joke than anything else.” The director also had words of praise of Juvenil A’s departing coach, Òscar Garcia, “for the great work he has done independent of the results,” adding that “we will continue following him for the future.”