FC Barcelona midfieder Xavi Hernández has claimed that he understood the flak aimed at Barcelona following the defeat by Real Sociedad, while insisting Coach Gerardo Martino isn’t to be blamed. “People always look for scapegoats. The gaffer has been made to carry the can and that’s not fair. We win and lose as a team”, he stated.

The maestro also took the time to praise the Argentine. “The coach is self-critical and that is to his credit”, added Xavi, who believes the squad has what it takes to win all three competitions it is in this season. “We are in pole position and competitive. We are going to be optimistic in the dressing room”, he noted. Nevertheless, the midfielder conceded that Barça “has no margin for error. There can be no more slip-ups and we have a big opportunity to get back on track on Sunday”.

Xavi’s omission from the starting XI in Anoeta triggered rumours about his relationship with Martino and the squad’s reaction to the manager’s decisions. The midfielder was quick to rubbish these reports: “The coach is in charge. I wasn’t brought up to try to go over the coach’s head, whatever he has or hasn’t won”.

“I get upset when I’m not involved or I don’t feel good on the pitch. That happens to everyone, but I respect the coach’s decision. He is my superior”, the pass maestro continued.

Ahead of their game on Sunday night, the Barça players will be keeping an eye out for the result of the Madrid derby between Real Madrid and Atlético: “What happens affects us, but either way we will try to win our match and give a good account of ourselves”, he stated. 

Brazilian Authorities Also Start Neymar Deal Investigation

(c)sports(dot)terra(dot)com_messi_neymarThe Brazilian courts have joined the Spanish judiciary’s enquiry into the figures involved in Neymar’s move to Barcelona. Although the player himself is not under investigation, the probe aims to get to the bottom of alleged tax offences committed by Neymar Sr in his management of the family companies.

The Brazilian authorities have requested a series of reports that will be studied at length to determine whether the forward’s father has made all the necessary tax payments. The paperwork is expected to arrive in Brazil by the end of next week, meaning Neymar Sr could be summoned to court in the second fortnight of March.

Meanwhile, F.C. Barcelona has said that it had made a payment of $18.6 million to Spanish tax authorities related to last year’s acquisition of the Brazilian star Neymar in an attempt to settle a legal dispute that has highlighted the opaque and convoluted system of payments used by soccer clubs to sign players.  However, it is unclear if the voluntary tax payment will be sufficient to end the Spanish court case.

Separately, Ruz, who is in charge of the Spanish case, asked Swiss authorities last week to request from FIFA, soccer’s governing body, all the documents that it received relating to Neymar’s contract. FIFA, which is based in Zurich, said earlier this month that it would not directly hand over such documents to the judge without a formal request being first lodged in Switzerland.