Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Luis Magana/AP/Press Association Image Bill Gates co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, center, with FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell, left and coach Pep Guardiola.
# American Dream
Going west with Barcelona
The Catalan giants are in the United States for a series of pre-season matches. Our man Paul Ring made it to their first press conference along with, y’know, Xavi and Shakira’s Gerard Pique.

BARCELONA COLLIDED HEAD-ON with North American indifference to the beautiful game on Thursday morning.

The current European champions were stretching their legs on Washington’s National Mall when they fell foul of local security. For groups of over 15, they were told, loitering is strictly prohibited.

Those emblems of sporting brilliance– the tracksuits, Carles Puyol’s raggedy mop of hair, a Pep Guardiola sweater-vest combination– just don’t carry the same weight on the other side of the Atlantic.

Rebuffed, the squad retreated to the more welcoming surrounds of the Ritz Carlton, where World Cup winners Xavi Hernandez and Gerard Pique took the podium to promote Barca’s nine-day tour of the United States.

Proudly displaying the Champions League trophy they reclaimed so effortlessly against Manchester United last May, the pair could be forgiven for beginning this, the first press conference of their American tour, bullishly optimistic.

Winger Alexis Sanchez was from Udinese last week and will bolster an already formidable attack, while the year -long Cesc Fabregas saga may also be nearing a positive resolution.

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Gerard Pique, who himself made the move back to Barca having after a spell in England, was predictably diplomatic on the subject of Fabregas.

“All signings need due process. It is normal that Arsenal want to keep him; he is a very important player for them. There has been lots of talk about this, let’s see what happens.”

The centre-back was also magnanimous when it came to discussing his former side, Manchester United. Asked why Barcelona appeared to so far ahead of United in terms of their development, he dismissed the question outright.

“ To be fair, we are on the same level, We were lucky to win the trophy, we played a great game but it was only very small details between the two teams. United could easily win on Saturday”

Xavi, on the other hand, was more ready to engage with the same questioner’s terms.

“Yes, we were better than them but who knows what that will be like in the future. We kept the ball better than them in May and were superior.”

Both agreed on the need for Lionel Messi– an absentee from the tour– to rest. Pique said he was well deserving of his vacation.

“We need him for a long season so he should rest now.”

The giant defender was also gushing in his praise for former manager Alex Ferguson, claiming:

“He is unbelievable, it would never happen in Spain. All the players know he will be there as long as he wants. United fans are happy for him to stay. They were not as big before as they are now and that is down to him.”

Their early morning stroll may have met a sudden halt, but the Catalans’ march towards more silverware begins anew this Saturday, when they kick-off the competitive leg of their American adventure with a repeat of last May’s Champion’s League final against Manchester United at FedEx field (12 pm, Irish time).

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