Barcelona run scared of the Old Firm


Last updated at 10:52 25 October 2007

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has pledged to bring his all-stars back to Scotland - but doesn't want to face the Old Firm because it would be too tough for Ronaldinho and company.

First Minister Alex Salmond begged the Catalan giants to return when he met Laporta at Ibrox on Tuesday night and the Spaniard is keen on the idea after last July's visit for friendlies against Hearts at Murrayfield and Dundee United at Tannadice drew massive crowds.

"I am very much in favour of the idea of us coming back to Scotland next summer for pre-season," said Laporta. "We like it here, the Scottish people love Barca and we enjoyed very good facilities at St Andrews in July.

"Mr Salmond was at the Rangers game and I spoke to him. He urged me to bring Barcelona back to this country again and we will definitely discuss it with our coaching and management staff.

"But we would not want to play Rangers or Celtic at that time. Pre-season is not for meeting teams who could be Champions League rivals later on. It is about conditioning work for the players and tuning up for the start of the season.

"We had good games with Hearts and Dundee United last time and, everywhere we went, the welcome was fantastic.

"Scottish people were polite about Barca and, in St Andrews, they let the players do their work when necessary. It is an unwritten rule of the coaches, though, that we wouldn't want to play the Old Firm - although I enjoyed my visit to Ibrox."

Hearts, Dundee United, Hibs and Aberdeen could now be in the frame for money-spinning friendlies next summer, while Laporta waits to afford Walter Smith's Nou Camp visitors his own Catalan hospitality on November 7.

"I look forward to Rangers coming to Barcelona in a fortnight," added the man who secured Henrik Larsson's signature on a Bosman from Celtic in 2004.

"Both of us are going well in the group at the halfway stage and who knows what can happen over the next three games for Rangers and Barca."

While Laporta was keen to foster good relations with the Ibrox club, star player Lionel Messi last night turned up the heat ahead of the Nou Camp rematch.

Lionel Messi

The Argentinian wonder kid left Scotland bleating that Rangers played 'anti-football' to blunt Barcelona's galaxy of stars.

He said: "It seems incredible, but Rangers did not want to play football. They played, from the very first moment, antifootball. We created many chances but it is just so complicated to play against an opponent like that."

Midfielder Kevin Thomson will miss out on the Nou Camp experience after he landed his third yellow card of the competition.

"I am gutted about not facing Barcelona over there," said Thomson. "Let's face it, it is every boy's dream to play somewhere like the Nou Camp."

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