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Aug 12, 2008

Eto'o and Henry staying at Barca - Guardiola

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has moved to end transfer speculation surrounding Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry by throwing his support behind both star strikers.

Henry has struggled to find his best form at the Camp Nou and earlier this week was linked with a dramatic move to Manchester United, while Eto'o was previously deemed surplus to requirements by Guardiola.

Guardiola's comments came at the pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League third-round first leg against Wisla Krakow at the Nou Camp, a match that will mark the competitive debut of the former Barca captain in the coaching hotseat.

Guardiola replaced Frank Rijkaard earlier this summer and soon wielded the axe, announcing that Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Deco had no future at the club.

The departure of Ronaldinho to Serie A giants AC Milan and Deco's move to the Premier League and Chelsea suggested that Guardiola decision was final, but after impressing in pre-season with five goals in four games the new coach has decided to reverse his decision and back Eto'o to stay with the Catalan giants and reclaim his reputation as one of European football's most feared strikers.

'I have decided he can stay, because of his wishes and mine,' said Guardiola. 'I know that I said on my first day that I did not count on him, but I also said that I would treat him like any other player.

'His behaviour and attitude in Scotland and the United States have made me decide that he will remain with us. And, as well as that, he is a player with immense talent.'

Questions marks surrounding Eto'o's future resulted in Barca being linked with a variety of striking talent over the summer, including Emmanuel Adebayor, David Villa, David Trezeguet, Karim Benzema and Dimitar Berbatov.

However, Guardiola was quick to deny claims that his u-turn over Eto'o was a consequence of failing to attract a suitable replacement for the Cameroon international.

'The negotiations to sign a 'number nine' were stopped some weeks ago following a decision by me and Txiki (Begiristain, sporting director),' the new Barca coach added.

'Before bringing players in you must let players go and as everything was going well I decided that it was not necessary to sign anybody and everything would remain the same.'

Guardiola also denied that keeping Eto'o was because he had doubts about his other senior striker Henry.

In his first season in Spain Henry failed to match he heights he reached with former club Arsenal and with just one goal in pre-season speculation over his future reached a high point earlier this week with tabloids in the UK claiming Sir Alex Ferguson was poised to launch a sensational bid to sign Henry for the reigning European and Premier League champions.

'I am delighted with [Henry's] performances and I know that the goals will arrive,' insisted Guardiola and reiterated his view that the 31-year-old Frenchman has a vital role to play at the Nou Camp alongside Eto'o.

'I need them both. Henry has played very well throughout pre-season. I know that there is an opinion against him but I am his coach and I know how he is beyond the games,' added Guardiola in quotes reported by Sport.

Looking ahead to his competitive debut on the Barca bench, Guardiola said of Wednesday's clash with Wisla: 'I've seen sufficient videos and studied a lot of reports to be assured that Wisla are a team who play very good football and are very well organised.

'I know them well enough to know that we have a very tough tie ahead of us.'

Aside from Guardiola, five of Barca's summer signings could also make their senior bows for the club on Wednesday with Dani Alves, Seydou Keita, Alexander Hleb, Gerard Pique and Martin Caceres all included in a provisional 22-man squad.

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