"It would be best if he made a decision before April," said Barcelona president Joan Laporta regarding Pep Guardiola's future. That was just before Saturday night's stylish 4-0 demotion of Seville had taken Barça five points clear at the top. After the game the president was back-pedalling. "Of course we are not setting a deadline. He will know the right moment to sit down and talk." Laporta is well aware that in this particular game of hold 'em, fold 'em his six-times trophy-winning coach has all the cards.
The out-going president would love Guardiola to sign before June's elections. It would be a vote of confidence for his hand-picked continuity candidate, Alfons Godall. But the Barça coach has no intention of doing that.
He will wait to see who wins and then open negotiations on a new deal that will more than double his current basic salary of €1.5m per season plus €1m bonuses for each trophy won, and may also extend his power to cover all football-related matters.
Former Barça vice-president and Nike executive, Sandro Rosell, is favourite to win the June vote and the close relationship that Guardiola has with those close to Rosell would make signing a new deal in such circumstances practically a formality.
However the election turns out, it is hard to foresee Guardiola walking away from a group of players good enough and young enough to dominate European football for a long time to come. Leo Messi (right) scored twice in this victory. With his first strike he became, at 22, the youngest player in Barcelona's history to reach 100 goals and with his second goal he became the top scorer in Spain this season with 14. "He can go on to break all the records if he wants to – 101 goals at 22 is incredible," said Guardiola.
Pedro got Barcelona's second goal after an own-goal from Julien Escudé had broken the deadlock. The winger now has 14 in all competitions this season and with his weekly supersub performance continues to justify the club's refusal to part with any money at the turn of the year for the not-so-supersub Robinho.
Real impotence continues
A strike-force assembled at the cost of €170m, 13 shots on target ... but no goals. For the second away match running Real Madrid failed to score and have now dropped 13 points on the road losing three times in the process. "We have to learn to win away from home if we want to challenge for the title," said Xabi Alonso after Fernando Llorente's third-minute goal gave Athletic Bilbao a 1-0 win. Summer signings Kaka, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo all drew blanks with 10 of Madrid's 23 shots in the game coming from the frustrated former Manchester United player.
Ronaldinho stars in victory
The Ronaldinho renaissance continued last night as the Brazilian scored his first hat-trick for Milan. David Beckham played 90 minutes in the 4-0 win over Siena that closes the gap at the top on Internazionale to six points. Jose Mourinho's men could only take a point from their away trip to Bari. In Germany, Bayer Leverkusen extended their unbeaten start to the season to 18 games with a 4-2 win over Mainz 05 to regain the top spot from Bayern Munich.Reuse content