Here is the second part of the two-part Bundesliga Fanatic exclusive interview with Catalan journalist Toni Padilla, who will be talking to us about the Bayern-Barça tie, Guardiola and Arjen Robben among many other things.
Toni Padilla, Catalan journalist who is chief sports editor for Catalan newspaper ARA and co-editor of the excellent Spanish football magazine Panenka, talked to the Bundesliga Fanatic about Barcelona’s upcoming Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich.
Bundesliga Fanatic: Would you say that Barça’s defence is their main weakness or are there others that Bayern could exploit?
Toni Padilla: If Messi cannot play then that will be the biggest problem for Barça and Tito Vilanova. However, if he can play, defence will be the main problem. I believe that there’s only one option left for Vilanova which is to play Marc Bartra, who is a young and interesting player but without experience in big games. He played some minutes against PSG and showed that he can play at a good level but it’s obviously not the same than starting a game at the Allianz-Arena. The problem is definitely that, the defence, but also the physical side. Barça look like a tired side whilst Bayern are looking a lot stronger, so that could also be a key point in regards to speed and pressure.
BF: You mentioned the doubt whether Leo Messi will be playing. Do you think that he could be the key as to who wins the tie?
TP: He could be one of the keys. When Messi plays, the team looks completely different. We have to remember what happened in the last game against PSG. The French side were on top, one-nil up and playing better than Barcelona and came very close to knocking Barça out. However, a half-injured Leo Messi came on and with just one good leg he changed the whole game, just like that. He is the best player that we have seen at Barça in many years and for many he’s the best player in the history of football. He’s stronger that Maradona and Pelé and he can change a whole game. Bayern supporters will remember what he was able to do a few years ago when he played against them. If he plays, everything changes. If we try to remember the players that play for Barça, we more or less have the Spanish national team, players like Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Piqué, Victor Valdés… it’s like a World Cup winning side, although the difference lies in the fact whether you play with or without Messi.
Guardiola will surprise everyone and win in style
BF: It’s inevitable to talk about Pep Guardiola. As you’ve seen this season, Bayern have been unstoppable and beaten teams by margins of 4, 5 and 6 goals, even scoring 9 goals on one occasions, so as someone who has followed Pep Guardiola since he was a player and more as a manager, what do you think that he can add to this Bayern team which seems to have it all?
TP: The style. The style and the mentality. In the history of football we have seen a lot of teams able to win all of the trophies. Bayern, for instance, won a lot of trophies in the past. What makes Pep Guardiola different is the style, it’s the way he wins the trophies. Barcelona also won many trophies in the past but the way in which Guardiola’s Barcelona did it was different to the rest; it was a different way, to work, a different style, a different way of understanding games. What Bayern supporters can expect from Guardiola is the unexpected. Maybe, before an important game, he will decide to field a young player in order to surprise everyone. He is someone with a lot of passion who sometimes borders the irrational. Sometimes he decides to choose a really young player who isn’t a regular and he’ll play him in the semi-final of the Champions League. He has a different style to the rest of managers and has a different way to express himself and communicate about football. These last four years have been a pleasure to attend Guardiola’s press conferences because he created a new way of talking about football. That’s precisely the idea, to try and find a new connection between Bayern’s tradition and this style, a style influenced by people such as Marcelo Bielsa (former Argentina and current Athletic Bilbao coach. Ed.) and Italian and Catalan football styles. He is creating a new way of understanding football and he will be taking that to München.
BF: There has also been much speculation on whether he will try and sign players from Barça for his new Bayern side. Do you think that will happen? Do you think that there will be Barça players who will want to move to Bayern? If so, which ones?
TP: I don’t think that this will happen. First of all, I don’t see Guardiola trying to steal any important player from Barcelona because it would create moral problems for him. He is, after all, a local Barça supporter, so I don’t see him trying to sign players like Sergio Busquets or other players such as Cesc Fàbregas. However, I can see Guardiola trying to sign members of Barça’s coaching, medical and fitness staff and that could very well happen. It seems likely that Lorenzo Buenaventura (Former Barça fitness coach) will go along with him, as he isn’t employed right now and was one of the key staff members. We also have to remember that Guardiola is not an easy man to work with. He is a person who wants to work hard every second, every minute and every hour of every day, so some players at Barça now will be happy that he left because they don’t have to work so hard. Maybe they’ll say that it was a pleasure and that it was the best time of my life but now they will have more time to be with their family. Players such as Piqué or Fàbregas I can’t see working again with Guardiola but others such as Sergio Busquets, Pedro or Messi would love to.
BF: It will be interesting to see, having said that, how players like Arjen Robben will play under someone as demanding as Guardiola.
TP: I remember that, during Guardiola’s first year, he decided to sell some important players, such as Eto’o, Ronaldinho and Deco because it wasn’t just about their ability but also their mentality or their will to work. So I could see players like Robben leaving Bayern, not because they are bad players but because of their way of understanding football being so different.
BF: Lastly, we would like to ask you for a score prediction for both legs?
TP: (Laughs) I don’t think I can give one as I’m really awful at making predictions and that’s why I’m poor because I can’t bet on them (laughs). I expect a match similar to the PSG game. There will definitely be goals. I’m going to go and say 2-2 at the Allianz and 2-1 for Barça at the Camp Nou.