"People think that there is a time bomb in the dressing room, but that isn't true. [Frank] Rijkaard has got the team under control. Samuel Eto'o has a good relationship with the rest of the group and the atmosphere is good" - What next from Barcelona captain Carles Puyol? The Palestinians and Israelis secretly get on?Despite the Fiver's snarky comment, Puyol is right. The problem isn't in the dressing room, it's in the boardroom.
The players resolved their issues by...wait for it...talking about their feelings. Quoth Puyol in his press conference:
"I arrived 8.45 am and Samuel was already in the dressing room,"he said. "We held the meeting and then Rijkaard came in and we spoke to the rest of the players after that. In the meeting the captains all talked about the two of them (Eto'o and Ronaldinho) and everything was sorted out and this made us more united. We have to be together with the games that lie ahead. "If training on Wednesday is anything to go by, it was plain to see that this has made us even more focussed. It was one of the best training sessions I can remember during my time at the club."And they say men don't do things like that. Rijkaard, at least, appreciated the effort.
"I talk to the president and we though that should be soughted out and that is what has happened," Puyol explained. "It was very easy because when people speak they understand better."
[Rijkaard] had a special mention for skipper Carles Puyol, who is said to have stepped up and played a pivotal part in ensuring things were sorted out swiftly and with maturity. He also took the lead in speaking to the media earlier this afternoon, and pulling down the curtainsIndeed. The captain has been immense throughout this mess. A lot gets said about the man, but it can't be repeated enough - he embodies some of the best things about the Barca ideal, and he is (qouting Sylvinho here) this squad's soul.
"When people like Puyol are around, it affects the team very positively," said the Dutchman.
For his part, Deco revealed that the hug between Ronaldinho and Eto'o in training on Wednesday - lapped up by the press - was staged for just such a purpose. But not the way you think:
"The press were anxious to see something and they talked about giving each other a hug to see their reaction," Deco told Radio Marca. "There weren't any problems, everything had been sorted out before and they just wanted to see how people reacted. It was a bit of a joke really."Finally, Rijkaard spoke up again to (hopefully) wrap up the whole affair:
Rijkaard, meanwhile, confirmed that "there will be no sanctions for Eto'o, because I believe in solving things amicably in the dressing room."While the whole issue of Rossell v Laporta will have to be laid to rest sometime in the future (and yes, that's exactly what this whole bloody feud is all about), right now it's best to concern oursevles with the football side of things, and I'm glad to see that this is what everyone at the club is now trying to do. Nice containment work from the suits.
He insisted that he was not looking for any apologies, because the issue has already been put behind: "I am not waiting for apologies, it is all already water under the bridge, and we have to look ahead. There is no issue. The squad is united, and that is enough motivation to continue working. I am delighted, because the dressing room is very sensible. When moments like these arrive, they still choose to learn from it."
(I am a politics major, so I'm allowed to admire these things, as disingenious as they almost always are.)
The Madrid press have been feasting on all this, of course, and no one can blame them - the Barca press has been doing it for the last few seasons, after all. But thank God for true gentlemen like Iker Casillas (one of Eto'o's best friends), who when asked to comment on the 'crisis' said:
"It [the Eto'o controversy] is something for the press to feast on, rather than good news for us," said Casillas during a press conference, when asked if Barcelona's problems could be good news for Real Madrid. "A lot is being made of it, but the fact is that there are some problems in every single squad, and that's just how it is. If Barcelona are in crisis, then we are in sheer darkness. It is laughable to to even suggest that they are in a crisis."Amen.
Bonus: this gem from the Barca website's training report for Wednesday -
Eto'o completed his training programme by taking shots at goal with Rijkaard supplying the passes from the side.I don't know why, but the image gave me a good laugh. (Rijkaard was a scary player, though, wasn't he?)