New Barcelona coach Guardiola declares Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Deco surplus to his requirements
BARCELONA, Spain: Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o and Deco are missing from Pep Guardiola's plans at FC Barcelona as the new coach begins the task of reversing the club's flagging fortunes.
"We are contemplating the future without them. The coach thinks this way after analyzing questions of performance and the (last) season," Guardiola said Tuesday at his presentation at Camp Nou stadium.
Ronaldinho, who has lost his status as the world's best player after a poor season, is currently being courted by Manchester City. AC Milan has shown interest in Eto'o, a three-time African player of the year who has scored 77 league goals in his four seasons with the club. Portugal midfielder Deco could join coach Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea.
However, Guardiola said France striker Thierry Henry and Mexico defender Rafael Marquez would remain at Barcelona.
Barcelona finished in third place in the Spanish league last season, 18 points behind champion Real Madrid — its worst showing in five years.
Guardiola said Ronaldinho and Eto'o would also stay if he "knew they would score 60 goals."
"If they were at their best they would be with us," he said. "We're planning the season without them but if they end up staying I will give my all to get them back to their level."
The new coach suggested that Ronaldinho's attitude was also at the heart of his decision.
"(If) he can get back to being the player he was, perhaps we could have a rethink. But circumstances are not what they are. I want a strong dressing room in which everyone feels important. That's vital. If we don't look after these aspects, we'll be less strong. And if Ronnie felt this, he would be with us," Guardiola said.
Guardiola, together with sporting director Txiki Begiristain, has already offloaded full back Gianluca Zambrotta to Milan, forward Giovani Dos Santos to Tottenham and midfielder Edmilson to Villarreal.
Sevilla midfielder Seydou Keita, Manchester United defender Gerard Pique and Villarreal left back Martin Caceres have joined, while Sevilla right back Daniel Alves says he has signed although the clubs have yet to confirm this.
Guardiola, whose only coaching experience has come with Barcelona's reserve team, was accompanied at his presentation by Begiristain and club president Joan Laporta.
The Catalan said he was ready for the challenge of becoming the 50th coach of one of the world's powerhouses.
"I feel prepared. If I didn't I wouldn't be sitting here. I don't have experience because I'm 37. If I were 45 I'd have more. There are lots of coaches the club could have chosen but they chose me. I'm not afraid," said Guardiola, who finished his tenure on Sunday by leading the 'B' side to promotion to Spain's regional third division.
Guardiola has replaced Frank Rijkaard, who was fired after five seasons in charge. Rijkaard led the team to the 2006 Champions League and Spanish league titles in 2005 and 2006.
Guardiola's appointment on a two-year contract was announced on May 8, a day after Barcelona suffered a humiliating 4-1 defeat to champions Real Madrid.
"I know the situation is difficult. We have to do well quickly. I'm not asking for time," Guardiola said.
Laporta, who is facing a motion of censure from a disgruntled group of club members, expressed confidence in Guardiola's ability to revive the team, which hasn't won a trophy in the past two years.
"He meets all the conditions to become one of the best coaches of Barcelona, if not the best. I feel proud as president to have influenced Pep Guardiola's story," Laporta said.
Guardiola was a key player for Barcelona under Dutch coach Johan Cruyff in the 1990s, and also played for Brescia and AS Roma in Italy before retiring in 2006.
He made 386 appearances for Barcelona as a skillful defensive midfielder and went on to become team captain. He won the Spanish league title six times, the Copa del Rey twice, and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 11 years in the team. He also played 47 times for Spain.
An occasional contributor to El Pais newspaper, he helped Barcelona presidential candidate Lluis Bassat in the club's elections of 2003. Bassat lost to Laporta.