Pep plays down Ibrahimovic feud

BY foxsports • September 10, 2010

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has refused to become embroiled in a bitter war of words with recently-departed striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic joined Barca in a big-money move last year, with Samuel Eto'o going the other way.

The deal cost the Catalans around 66million euros in total, but the player never fully adapted to life at the Nou Camp and left to join AC Milan at the end of this summer's transfer window.

Ibrahimovic has moved initially on loan with a view to a permanent deal, but Barca are set to lose over half the money they invested to bring the Swede to the Nou Camp.

The player himself has hit out at Guardiola, claiming the two had not spoken in months and pejoratively dubbing his former coach "the philosopher."

"I wish I was a philosopher, although by the tone in which he said it I know he didn't mean it (as a compliment)," the Barca coach said at a press conference.

Nevertheless, Guardiola claims he is happy with the Swede's contribution in his time at the club.

"I am grateful for his hard work and his help in winning the five titles (Primera Division, World Club Cup, back-to-back Supercopas and the European Super Cup) - I don't know if we would have done it without him," he said.

"I understand, by what he has been saying and what his official spokesperson has said, that they were not happy working with me," he added.

"But I was happy with them and I learnt a lot from him."

Despite the prickly nature of the Swede's departure and the barbed criticism he has been forced to endure from his former player, Guardiola wishes the striker well in Milan.

"I hope he finds his place at Milan. I hope he can win the league and get to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the second time," he said.

The Barca coach will hardly have forgotten Ibrahimovic's big dream was to claim the Champions League after signing for the Catalan club.

But Guardiola's side missed out on European football's biggest prize last season, falling to Inter Milan, coincidentally Ibrahimovic's former club, in the semi-finals.

Barca now kick off their Champions League campaign at home to Panathinaikos on Tuesday night, but the Catalans are in action at the Nou Camp tomorrow, when newly-promoted side Hercules are the visitors.

"They will play with intensity and their signings, (David) Trezeguet and (Royston) Drenthe will make them stronger - we will have to play a good match," Guardiola said.

Barca captain Carles Puyol has a knock and may be rested ahead of the club's Champions League match on Tuesday.

Jeffren Suarez is definitely out, but Guardiola will have an otherwise full-strength squad to choose from for Saturday's match after all his international players returned unscathed from their respective games this week.

While Barca thrashed Racing Santander 3-0 in the first round of Primera Division matches, Hercules lost at home to Athletic Bilbao.

The Alicante-based side is likely to be a lot stronger for Saturday's match, however, with Trezeguet, Drenthe and Paraguay forward Nelson Haedo Valdez all in line for their debuts.

Romanian defender Cristian Pulhac is doubtful, while French midfielder Olivier Thomert misses out through injury.

Veteran midfielder Javier Farinos is also sidelined and Matias Fritzler is suspended.

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