Sir Bobby plays down revenge mission

Last updated : 08 December 2002 By Martyn Elliott

He insists that his time there was both happy and successful and that he does not blame current manager Louis van Gaal for his treatment.

Sir Bobby was offered the chance to take over as manager of Newcastle after Kevin Keegan’s resignation, but Barcelona blocked the move, despite the fact that they had gone behind his back to appoint Ajax boss van Gaal for the following season.

But after Sir Bobby’s Barca side had won both the Spanish Cup and the European Cup Winner’s Cup, they could not sack him and were left in the embarrassing position of having two head coaches.

Ever the gentleman Sir Bobby stepped down.

"I love the club, I love the city and I loved my life there," said Sir Bobby about Barcelona.

"The fans and the people are very similar to Geordies, and Barcelona is more than a football team - it represents a nation. I used to call it the army of Catalonia - and I felt like a Catalan.

"Basically, I didn't want to leave.

"When Newcastle originally came in, it was heartache for me.

"I had a big decision to make, so I approached the then Barcelona president (Josep Luis Nunez) about it.

"I said: 'Look, I've got an offer to go back home which excites me and I'm really interested.' And he said: 'You've signed a contract. You can't leave'.

"I couldn't then say: 'I'm going to go, so stuff your contract.' I couldn't do that.

"What he didn't tell me was that he had signed another contract with Louis van Gaal at the same time.

"It was a difficult situation, I said to the president: 'Look, you signed me for two years and look what I've done for you!'

"But they hadn't thought I was going to do that well and it would be easier to move me on in the summer.

"So of course at the end of the year they were totally embarrassed and didn't know what to do, but Louis was signed on to come.

"So after my brilliant first year - or our brilliant first year - Louis came in.

"I was still coach, I had a contract which said I was still head coach, but they were in a predicament and I just solved it by saying: 'If you think he (Van Gaal) is the long-term future, I'll be the gentleman and step aside'.

"But the fact I was only in charge of Barcelona for one season is one of my biggest regrets.

"There was no animosity between me and Louis at all because it wasn't his fault and it wasn't my fault - it was the fault of Barcelona.

"They screwed up, not Louis Van Gaal. We're friends.

"I would like to go back to Barcelona with my best team. The fact that I'm not does disappoint me.

"But I've got to get over that disappointment because I never thought I'd ever go back to Barcelona with any team on competitive terms.

"Here I am and it's a dream for me."

Shay Given summed up the position for everyone involved though, commenting: "We'd love to win it for the gaffer, that would be very special."