Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta have given contrasting reactions to speculation that the latter offered his resignation after news of the transfer ban imposed on the club became public.
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Catalan radio reported that Zubizarreta had offered to step down after his work was criticised during a heated meeting last Wednesday, that took place hours after FIFA had announced Barca were guilty of breaking youth transfer regulations.
“There was a rumour around Barcelona about my resignation, but I have not resigned and am not going to resign,” he said. “I feel fully backed by the president and the board. In this moment when there are problems and difficulties my way of understanding life tells me I should be here with this club, which has given me so much. I will be working to clean the image of this club.”
On Sunday, however, Bartomeu gave a slightly different version of events to Radio Catalunya, suggesting that Zubizarreta had actually talked about potentially leaving the Camp Nou, only for the board to ask him to stay on.
“Andoni is a man of the club and has done sensational work,” Bartomeu said. “Last Wednesday afternoon, after learning of the FIFA punishment, we met to see how to approach the matter. Zubizarreta said if he was the problem, he would go. I appreciate his words, but he is not responsible for this.”
While the former Blaugrana goalkeeper cannot be blamed for Barca ignoring FIFA’s youth transfer regulations, many fans and pundits around the Camp Nou have been critical of his work in the transfer market in recent seasons.
The Catalan club have been searching without success for an experienced centre-back for some time now, and a situation has also been allowed to develop where both senior goalkeepers are out of contract at the end of the current season.
Bartomeu, nonetheless, said he did not expect the club’s summer business -- with a deal for Croatian youngster Alen Halilovic already publicly announced, and another for Borussia Moenchengladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen reportedly done in private -- to be affected.
“Halilovic is signed for Barca B and Zubizarreta is still preparing the team for next season,” he said. “We do not believe the planning will be stalled. We will explain to FIFA and argue for a suspension [pending the appeal]. If not we will go to CAS and repeat that. We all have to do our work.”
Bartomeu has previously suggested that the club would be happy if current first-choice goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who is sidelined until October with a serious knee injury, changed his mind about leaving to stay at the Camp Nou for another season at least.
Valdes, though, is only focused on getting fit again for the moment, the Blaugrana chief said.
“[Valdes] is very focused on his recovery, which will be long,” Bartomeu said. “He has said nothing about his future. He had very bad luck. He has said nothing about the future. He is one of our own, who has given everything. Whatever he needs he will have. I do not know why he is leaving.”