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Joan Laporta: ‘Barcelona has been kidnapped. It’s hostage to lies and it’s sad’

The former Barcelona president on why the club’s board should resign, why he is certain Pep Guardiola will succeed at Manchester City and the day he feared he might be forced to sell Lionel Messi

There is a story Joan Laporta tells of the day he called Pep Guardiola to his office and told him he was going to be the new manager of Barcelona, to which Guardiola replied: “You haven’t got the balls.” If there is one thing Barça’s former president never lacked it is balls and yet he does not see it like that, even though José Mourinho wanted the job. Nine years on, it looks the obvious decision; back then, he claims it was obvious too – and he insists Guardiola is also right for Manchester City. “It wasn’t bravery, it was logic,” he says. “And if City back him as he deserves he’ll succeed. He’s an optimist, a winner and he’s brave: he won’t hide.”

Laporta sits in his sixth-floor office on Diagonal, the wide, 11km-long avenue that cuts through Barcelona, the day after an event with the Johan Cruyff foundation. “I miss him so much,” he says, “but it’s strange: we all said it’s as if he hasn’t gone.” When Laporta was growing up, he cut his hair like Cruyff, his idol as a player and later a coach. Eventually, they became close. In the presidency and beyond, the Dutchman became his adviser. Cruyff was an ideologue, almost a spiritual guide. Not only to Laporta but to many, especially those at the gathering, Guardiola and City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, among them.

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