Johan Cruyff says Barcelona’s bumbling directors, not under-fire coach Gerardo Martino, are ultimately to blame for the club’s Champions League exit to Atletico Madrid this week.
A 1-0 loss at Atletico on Wednesday saw Barca eliminated 2-1 on aggregate, bringing to an end a run of six consecutive semifinal appearances in the competition, and leading to plenty of criticism in the Catalan media for Martino's tactics and substitutions.
However, when asked if 'Tata' was to blame for the team having failed to reach the heights of previous seasons, former Blaugrana player and coach Cruyff told AS the real issue was that boardroom interference over recent years has taken an inevitable toll on the team.
“Martino does what he can, but it is very difficult when you want to be in control and they do not let you,” Cruyff said. “The coach should decide in the dressing-room, but for four years it is not the coach who is in charge. It is logical that is happening. Those above [are to blame].”
Cruyff was speaking at an event alongside former Blaugrana president Joan Laporta and the Dutchman, who long ago fell out with Laporta’s successor Sandro Rosell, said that the current regime [initially led by Rosell and now overseen by Josep Maria Bartomeu] had been disastrous and should not remain in charge in order for the the team to be successfully rebuilt for the future.
“They have been there for four years and things just keep getting worse and worse,” Cruyff said. “If difficult decisions now have to be taken on the pitch, they should be made by someone who has been at this for many years.”
Cruyff added that Brazilian starlet Neymar, who was among Barca’s best performers against Atletico, should not be targeted by critics -- as the fallout from his costly and controversial transfer is not the player’s fault.
“Neymar is a victim of money, of his agent and the club,” Cruyff said. “He is a kid who can improve, but from making his own mistakes, and he has to be allowed to make them. What they are doing with the kid is unfair.”
Meanwhile, the Madrid media has focused on Lionel Messi’s poor performance at the Calderon, especially the statistics released post-game which showed that the Argentine had run the least of all Barca’s outfield players, and barely more than the team’s goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.
Even with the fitness of Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo a real concern ahead of next Wednesday’s clasico in the Copa del Rey final, AS’ cover on Friday morning screamed ‘Crisis Messi’, with Ronaldo’s injury just taking up a small spot in the top right corner of the page.