Barcelona's Champions League preparations have been thrown into chaos by the club's striker Samuel Eto'o, a week ahead of their quarter-final first leg against Liverpool. Eto'o has angrily condemned coach Frank Rijkaard, his team-mate Ronaldinho and suggested that there is a civil war at the Catalan club.
"Telling a news conference I didn't want to play is the behaviour of a bad person," said Eto'o, hitting back at suggestions by Rijkaard that the Cameroonian refused to come on as a substitute during Sunday's 2-0 home victory over Racing Santander.
"They can say what they want but I've always met my obligations to my team-mates. If you want to know what really happened you should ask Rijkaard." Eto'o has recently returned after four months out with a knee injury and played for nine minutes in a league game against Osasuna 10 days ago. He was expected to figure for twice that length of time against Racing, but was asked to go on with 10 minutes to play.
"Eto'o warmed up but afterwards told [assistant coach] Eusebio he did not want to come on," said Rijkaard after the game. "I think it's a shame because every minute, every moment, can be important. I haven't spoken with him but I'm always prepared to talk."
Although he didn't name him, Eto'o also rounded on Ronaldinho, who offered a tame comment following Sunday's game that the team should always come first. "If a team-mate comes out saying that I have to think about the group," said Eto'o, "then the guy who actually has to do that is him [Ronaldinho]. That's the only thing that upset me."
Captain Carles Puyol challenged Eto'o after training on Monday, suggesting that he owed Rijkaard an explanation. That made headline news, but Eto'o thinks the real reason for the huge furore created by his own actions is a conflict between President Joan Laporta and former vice-president Sandro Rosell.
"In Barcelona, there are two groups: one of the president and one of the other person," he said, referring to Rosell, who has no position, but significant influence at the club. "It's a war between two people and has nothing to do with me, but I'm taking flak."
Referring to Rosell, who questioned the signing of the Cameroonian in 2004, he said: "The ones making the big noises at the moment are the ones which are most worried. But they should know that I'm back because injuries are not forever, even though I am aware there are a few people who hurt when I score. If anyone has the balls to xsay something to my face, then let them spit it out.
"When he [Rosell] was my boss at Barcelona, he wouldn't give me the time of day. Now he sneaks up behind me to stick the knife in, that's what a bad person would do. Yet I'm the guy who always trains with my team-mates and even if I have an injury I always play through it."
Rosell, who had headed up sportswear giants Nike in South America, helped lure players like Ronaldinho and Deco to Barcelona but was forced out of the club after a disagreement with long-term friend Laporta. But the row reveals that the rift - between Laporta players and the Rosell players - extends to the dressing room.
Asked if he will apologise, Eto'o said: "I don't have to give any explanations to anyone. I will only give an explanation to the club if they ask me. If I come out and speak then people will see what is going on. I can forgive but not forget."Reuse content