Barca sack director of football

Former keeper Andoni Zubizarreta leaves Barcelona along with assistant Carles Puyol days after transfer ban is upheld.

Zubizarreta, right, finished playing for Barca two years before Luis Enrique made his debut [AP]
Zubizarreta, right, finished playing for Barca two years before Luis Enrique made his debut [AP]

Barcelona have sacked their sports director Andoni Zubizarreta, just days after the Court of Arbitration for Sport backed a one year transfer ban against the Spanish club.

Former captain Carles Puyol, who had been his assistant since retiring last year, also left his post on Monday.

“The FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu has decided to terminate as of today the contract of the Club’s Director of Football, Andoni Zubizarreta,” Barca said in a statement.

“The President, in the name of the Club, thanks Andoni Zubizarreta for his contribution, dedication and professionalism over the last four years in his role at the head of the Club’s football area.”

Zubizarreta, 53, kept goal for Barca between 1986 and 1994 and has 126 caps for Spain. He joined the Catalan side as its sporting director in 2010. His contract was not set to expire until 2016.

The announcement comes after the Switzerland-based court dismissed a Barcelona appeal against the FIFA ban imposed in April for breaching rules on signing players aged under 18.

Cheque book closed

Barcelona cannot buy players during the transfer window that opens on January 1 and for the summer transfer period before the 2015-16 season. They can only open the cheque book again in January 2016.

Barcelona acknowledged making “errors” but said these were caused by “conflict between FIFA regulations and Spanish legislation.”

The board was scheduled to meet on Monday evening and Bartomeu will appear at a press conference on Wednesday to explain the club’s decision to fire Zubizarreta.

Under Zubizarreta’s watch as sporting director, Barcelona won the Spanish league title twice – in 2011 and 2013 – as well the Champions League in 2011.

But last year Barcelona won no major silverware and several major signings carried out by Zubizarreta have not produced the hoped for results, sparking criticism from fans and Spain’s sports media.

Barcelona signed Brazilian right-back Douglas Pereira from Sao Paulo in August 2014 but he has failed to find his place in the squad.

Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen, signed in August from Premier League side Arsenal, underwent surgery last month on his troublesome right hamstring and will be sidelined for four months.

Barcelona crashed 1-0 away to Real Sociedad on Sunday with the Catalan side paying the price for leaving both Lionel Messi and Neymar among more than $350 million of talent on the bench, putting more pressure on coach and former player Luis Enrique.

A third league defeat of the season means Barca remain a point behind leaders Real Madrid having also played a game more than the European champions.

Source: AFP

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