Barcelona's Guardiola plays down Eto'o rift

September 9, 2008

BARCELONA, September 9 (Primera Liga) - Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola insists Samuel Eto'o did nothing wrong in missing training last week and had his full permission to do so.

With most of his team-mates on international duty, Eto'o went on a three-day trip to visit a foundation run in association with UNICEF to help local children.

Spanish media reports suggested the striker had fallen out with Guardiola after returning back to training 45 minutes late.

However, the Barca boss claims Eto'o - who was suspended for Cameroon's game against Cape Verde - had a reasonable explanation for his tardiness and that there is no problem between the duo.

"Eto'o came to see me to ask for a break from Monday to Wednesday, because he had a clinic in Mozambique with children from his foundation," said Guardiola.

"There wasn't a game for a fortnight and for that reason I let him leave. Although we agreed that he would train Thursday, Friday morning and afternoon and Saturday morning.

"I and only I can give authorisation. If we had had a game on the following Sunday, I wouldn't have let him leave.

"We tried to do it so he wouldn't arrive late, but sometimes flights can be delayed."

Eto'o was one of three high-profile Barca players who were told earlier this summer they would be allowed to leave the club, the others being Ronaldinho and Deco.

Ronaldinho joined AC Milan and Deco moved to Chelsea, but Eto'o remained at Barca and, after impressing in pre-season, Guardiola opted to keep him at the Catalan giants.

And he claims he has been impressed by the striker's attitude since.

"Before I announced it, everyone knew that Eto'o was on the market with Deco and Ronaldinho and I wasn't counting on them," continued Guardiola.

"But at the end he wanted to stay and I wanted him to stay. If one of us hadn't wanted it, it wouldn't have happened.

"I'm happy with the player's extraordinary manner that he's had since the beginning. I'm delighted. He fulfilled all my expectations with his attitude day after day in training, then in the games he's scored goals and up to now he's helped us very well.

"I have nothing to say against his performance. On the contrary, I'm very satisfied with his game."

Guardiola also defended Thierry Henry who came under a lot of criticism following Barca's defeat at Numancia in their Primera Liga opener.

"I'm delighted with him," he said. "It's not fair to focus all the defeat on Henry. He has given us a lot, he has given me a lot and he will continue giving me a lot.

"My duty is to get the best out of him.

"He can play very well in many positions. In Krakow he participated more than in the first leg and in each game he has chances to score.

"He only needs to get a bit of confidence."