Players can help Barca through crisis, Martino says
Barca president Sandro Rosell stepped down on Thursday after being named in a lawsuit filed by a club member seeking more information about last year’s signing of Brazil forward Neymar.
Rosell, who denies wrongdoing, is being investigated by a Spanish court for alleged misappropriation of funds in a complex deal for the player worth almost 90 million euros (74 million pounds) and that included a series of payments to Neymar’s family.
Barca initially refused to reveal some details of the contracts but Neymar’s father waived a confidentiality agreement on Friday and new president Josep Bartomeu published a breakdown of the deal.
Martino told a news conference previewing Sunday’s La Liga game at home to Malaga he did not feel his position had been weakened by Rosell’s exit.
The controversy over Neymar’s move from Santos would not affect the player on the pitch, he predicted.
“It’s not the kind of situation we would want to be in,” Martino said.
“The players are sad but they know the best way forward is to do things well in footballing terms,” added the Argentine, who is in his first season in charge after taking over from the ailing Tito Vilanova.
“The dressing room seems in good shape to me. They are enjoying life at Barca and they need to win like every year and respect the club’s playing style in winning trophies.”
As well as Neymar, who turned an ankle in a King’s Cup game on January 16 and is expected to be out until the middle of February, Martino will be without Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Martin Montoya and Alex Song for Malaga’s visit to the Nou Camp.
Playmaker Iniesta has not recovered from a bruised knee, while centre back Puyol suffered a knock to his left leg in Wednesday’s 4-1 King’s Cup win at Levante, Barca said on their website on Saturday.
Midfielder Song and fullback Montoya have calf and Achilles problems respectively and have been rested as a precaution, they added.
There was better news for Martino on the club’s Netherlands winger Ibrahim Afellay, who was declared fit this week following a battle with a series of injuries over the past two years and included in the squad for Sunday.
Barca are level at the top on 51 points with Atletico Madrid, who play at struggling Rayo Vallecano on Sunday (1800), with 18 matches left.
Real Madrid, a point behind in third, can overtake them with a win at home to mid-table Granada later on Saturday (1500).
(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Pritha Sarkar)