Barça back sick coach as players’ form dips

FC Barcelona are talking down the importance of two recent losses against arch rivals Real Madrid with the club saying the top priority this season is the recovery of coach Tito Vilanova, currently having cancer treatment in New York.

Barça back sick coach as players' form dips
Messi rues a missed chance against Real Madrid on February 26th. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

"The absolute priority for the club is the recovery of (Tito) Vilanova, everything else is secondary. If we win some titles, great, but if we don't too bad," club president Sandro Rosell told a press conference.

Rosell visited the coach last week and said Vilanova was "very motivated and very implicated in the daily life of the club" adding that "God willing" Vilanova could return for a potential Champions League quarter-final if the team can overturn a 2-0 deficit against AC Milan in their home leg Last 16 clash next week.

The four-time European champions are well on their way to a 22nd Spanish title. They hold a commanding 11 point lead on Atletico Madrid but have gone off the boil in recent weeks with defeats against Real Madrid in both the Spanish Cup and league as well as the reverse at the San Siro.

When asked about a potential change in the managerial hot seat at the Nou Camp, Rosell poured cold water on the idea of a new coach coming in to replace Vilanova or interim coach Jordi Roura.

"We have never considered the option of bringing in a new coach. We will wait as long as it takes for him (Vilanova) to return," he said.

"(Jordi) Roura is a hero. We should thank him for taking the responsibility we have entrusted him with."

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‘Diego is eternal’: Messi pays tribute to Maradona

Lionel Messi paid tribute to Diego Maradona on Wednesday by calling him "eternal" after his fellow Argentine died of a heart attack.

'Diego is eternal': Messi pays tribute to Maradona
Diego Maradona hugs Lionel Messi after 2010 World Cup quarter final Argentina vs Germany. Photo: AFP

“A very sad day for all Argentines and football,” Messi wrote on Instagram. “He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal. I will keep all the beautiful moments that I lived with him and would like to send my condolences to all his family and friends. RIP.”






A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi)

Messi and Maradona have often been compared in the debate about who was the greatest footballer of all time.

Both players are icons in Argentina and have been likened to each other due to their global status, dribbling style and famous number 10 shirts.    

Maradona was also Messi's coach during his brief time in charge of the national team, which included Argentina being thrashed by Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.

A banner held up during 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 25, 2014. Photo: AFP


Maradona spent two years at Barcelona, where Messi is now captain and the club's all-time top scorer, although Maradona's greatest years were spent with Napoli in Italy.

Asked about Maradona in 2010, Messi said: “Even if I played for a million years, I'd never come close to Maradona. Not that I'd want to anyway. He's the greatest there's ever been.”