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Levante play down player exits

Levante president Quico Catalan says nobody should read anything into the fact that most of the players involved in the controversial 4-0 home defeat to Deportivo La Coruna on April 13 are now leaving the club.

Levante have been in dismal form since Jose Javier Barkero pointed the finger at his team-mates
Jose Javier Barkero accused four Levante team-mates of not making enough effort against Deportivo La Coruna

Widespread reports emerged after that game about a half-time row, during which Jose Javier Barkero accused four team-mates of not making enough effort.

While Barkero subsequently publicly apologised to his colleagues, and all involved have denied any wrongdoing, Liga de Futbol Profesional [LFP] president Javier Tebas has said that Spanish prosecutors are looking into betting irregularities around the fixture.

Goalkeeper Gustavo Munua, defenders Sergio Ballesteros and Juanfran, and winger Juanlu have all either left Levante already or are expected to depart in the coming weeks, while Barkero has also reportedly had the last year of his contract ended by mutual consent.

Catalan said that all decisions made on which players stayed or left during the transfer window were taken only for footballing reasons, in consultation with sporting director Manolo Salvador.

“A new season is starting, we are planning and Levante cannot attribute non-sporting reasons to any decision to rescind or renegotiate a contract with a player,” Catalan said. “It would not be just, and anyway we could not do that as nobody has proved anything.”

Catalan, whose two-year term as LFP vice-president ended last month, said Tebas had called him with details of the situation two weeks after the Deportivo game was played.

He added that nobody should read anything into his lack of public comment on the issue up until now, as the club had been carefully considering the situation.

“We have thought a lot,” he said. “The silence should not invite people to think that the club lacks reasons to explain certain things. The changes which are being made are not born from one day to the next. When you are not publicly saying what you are doing it can give the feeling that the club is not able to respond, but what we are doing is the fruit of work of these months during which the president did not speak in public.”

Catalan said he had spoken personally with all the figures involved in the alleged half-time discussion during the game and still hoped nothing untoward had happened, but did have a responsibility to protect Levante as a club.

“I had been going through an internal situation, I had met with all the players for what happened with Barkero in the dressing room,” he said. “What I was told was along the lines of ‘look Quico, we have indications, the investigators could start an enquiry’, but there was no more than that.

"I do not know, but these things take place in secrecy and I must respect that. Nobody is prepared for things like this. I have sat down with those accused, they have looked me in the eye and said there is nothing. On the other hand I must protect the institution. I have been told there is evidence and it could be that there is proof.”

Former coach Juan Ignacio Martinez, who guided Levante into a first ever European campaign last term, has also left this summer, to be replaced by Joaquin Caparros.

It has been suggested in Spain that the relationship between Catalan and Martinez had long broken down, but the president said there had been nothing personal involved.

“The situation is not easy for anyone,” he said. “It was a very difficult call for Levante to make. The easiest thing to do would have been to continue with Juan Ignacio. There were arguments in favour of him staying, but we decided to go another way, with a new sporting project.”