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Why Guardiola leaving Barcelona could be bad news for Real Madrid

Those at Real Madrid celebrating Pep Guardiola's departure should be careful what they wish for.

Rather than a shift in power between the eternal rivals, Guardiola's exit can actually inspire a new, stronger era for Barcelona.

His departure announcement last week all seemed so smooth - a little too smooth.

And the media across Europe lapped it up. But why not? We can all sing when we're winning, but the manner of which he, Barca's players and fans took their Champions League elimination at the hands of Chelsea spoke volumes of the influence Guardiola has had over the club for the past four years.

This time there was no strops. Nor sprinklers. The Nou Camp crowd applauded warmly, beaten Barca players congratulated their opponents and Guardiola made sure of shaking the hands of all the Chelsea coaching staff before he descended down the players' race.

He and Barca won a lot of new friends that night.

And those in the media have been queuing up since Friday's announcement to espouse the 'Guardiola philosophy'.

But let's get serious.

What of the row with Gerard Pique? The disagreements with Andoni Zubizarreta on transfer policy? The question marks hanging over Daniel Alves' future - and the constant benching of Cesc Fabregas?

And what about poor, old Luis Enrique? It could be argued, by indulging Guardiola and his year-to-year agreements, Barca president Sandro Rosell sold both Enrique and the club short. The most natural successor for Guardiola would have been the former Barca B boss. But now he's stuck at a stubborn AS Roma, while Tito Vilanova, with no No1 experience, is the man now handed the Nou Camp reigns.

But the chuckles from the Bernabeu and doubts over a Vilanova-led Barca can be offset by both Rosell and sports director Zubizarreta now having greater control of transfer policy.

It's been staring them in the face for 18 months, but Guardiola refused to add a new centre-half to his squad, instead deploying Javier Mascherano as a make-shift centre-back - even at times leaving Pique on the bench or in the stands.

There's claims he refused to shake up his defence out of loyalty to those who backed him when he first entered the senior locker room, dumping Ronaldinho and Deco in the process. But it can be argued he simply lost his bottle in the transfer market.

Martin Caceres and Dmytro Chygrynskiy were signed for huge money, but barely managed a handful of games between them. Henrique also cost a small fortune, but in four years never made an appearance, while Guardiola couldn't convince Gaby Milito to stick around last season.

And how Didier Drogba made him pay last week.

Others close to the club tell me they've suffered because of Guardiola's loyalty to a senior clique, which has exasperated both Rosell and Zubizarreta.

A return to La Masia for Valencia's exciting young fullback Jordi Alba appeared a done deal earlier this year. But that soon faded with claims Guardiola was happy to carry on with Daniel Alves.

Albert Valentín, Barca's chief scout, was a regular at Tottenham games in January and February to run the rule over Gareth Bale.

Zubizarreta regards the Welshman as the best young left-sided midfielder in Europe. But again, the intensity of their interest has since waned and it emerged last week Zubi and Guardiola were at odds over Bale's suitability to their system.

Even delays over a deal for Santos star Neymar are being blamed on Guardiola. It's claimed he was dead against the Brazilian's signing as it - again - would upset the balance of a team built around Lionel Messi.

But now with Guardiola gone and an eager-to-impress Vilanova taking over, Zubi can begin in earnest a regeneration of the current squad - with a centre-half, new fullbacks and a centre-forward all high on the summer agenda.

Those pulling the strings in the boardroom will welcome the praise being heaped on Guardiola around the world. It keeps the club's failures away from the scrutiny and glare.

Guardiola is leaving them with supposedly 'the greatest team in history'. But Barca's powerbrokers know, when they look towards Madrid, they can't seriously call themselves 'the greatest' when they'll finish the season with nothing in the trophy room.

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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