Camp Nou

Next Game

Ath Bilbao v Barcelona

Saturday, 30 May 2015, 20:30

Copa del Rey Final

Camp Nou

Last Game

Barcelona 2 - 2 Deportivo

Saturday, 23 May 2015, 17:30

Spanish Primera BBVA

Return of Tito

Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova and veteran defender Eric Abidal are back to lift the Catalan giants to even greater things, says Graham Hunter.

Last Updated: 03/04/13 at 09:59 Post Comment

The 44-year-old Vilanova has been receiving treatment for cancer but is back on the training ground with his beloved Barca in a week that also saw Abidal return to the bench a year after a live transplant.

Barcelona, who hold a 13-point advantage over reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid with just nine games to go, conceded a late equaliser at Celta Vigo on Saturday to draw 2-2 - but Hunter expects the club to pull together now and finish the job sooner rather than later.

He told Revista: "I'm straying outside my knowledge if we're talking about long, intensive courses of chemotherapy. What we have learned is that he (Vilanova) has been more engaged in what we've been watching while he's been away. He'd give a video conference team talk before the match.

"Now that he's back, I think that along with Abidal, it's huge. It's not very fashionable to talk about spirit and family bonds within a team. It's more about talent and money, incentives and glory. But since Pep Guardiola took over, it's very much been based on spirit.

"The resumption of duties by Abidal and Villanova will have a huge psychological effect on this team. It's a beneficial thing for them individually but for as a football club as a whole."

Guillem Balague added: "He (Vilanova) came back in the first training session and said 'You've got no idea how happy I am to be in front of you.' When he said that he took his face away because he was breaking down, and then he got back and started making it all football.

"He stressed that they have to get back to focussing on the league, because it's not one yet. The emotion of it all is now very much part of his involvement."

Achievement

The draw at Celta marked another personal milestone for Barcelona star Lionel Messi, who completed the remarkable feat of scoring against every La Liga side in a row.

Hunter said of the Argentine forward: "Although there's a nice symmetry to scoring against 19 teams in the league, to my knowledge there's no other player who has scored in 19 games in a row. That's outright football history.

"Secondly, Messi used to suffer from a virus that meant he got bad jet lag coming back from Europe and South America. This season, including this weekend, when he laid on one and scored one, he's shown that physically, mentally and physiologically that he's learned to cope with that.

"He's as as devastating when he's tired after an international break as when he's at his absolute sharpest."

Former Liverpool assistant Paka Ayestaran was equally effusive in his praise, adding: "It's a magnificent achievement and it shows that for him, it's never enough. He achieves one thing and then he's on to the next one. He's always looking for a new challenge.

"Sometimes, everybody is looking for him going into the box. He wants to be involved in the areas and with the comeback of Tito, they will have a leader who is driving in the right way in the Barcelona style."

Balague ventured even further, predicting that Messi will wear the Barcelona armband next season as he continues to become an even bigger influence off the pitch as well as on it.

Balague said: "You're going to see him as the captain next season. He's already the captain of Argentina. He used to be shy but that's changed.

"He now gives chats before the games and when he's at Barcelona, he also has a lot to say. He's maturing into a leader and you can see it in the way he plays."

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

N

ow is the time for Allardyce to finally get a chance at a big club please. He is likely to have a number of great offers for his services this summer, but who will he choose? Will it be Liverpool, Real Madrid, Dortmund or Man City?

medina_sod
Allardyce leaves West Ham

I

thought exactly this when the Match of the Day pundits were peddling this line. Is it really not okay for fans of a club to have some ambition these days then?

damoceltic
Bored Of Big Sam? It's Your Right...

H

ow magnanimous off him - to leave if he's asked to by the owners? What's the alternative, bunker down in his office claiming squatter's rights if FSG want rid?

feed the bear
Rodgers: I'll go if owners want

Footer 365

Sepp Blatter: Tiny minority to blame for FIFA crisis

Sepp Blatter has told FIFA's annual congress he had no way of monitoring "a tiny minority" of officials accused of corruption.

Sepp Blatter lies low as David Cameron joins opposition to FIFA president's re-election

Sepp Blatter held an emergency meeting in Zurich on Thursday morning as David Cameron joined those calling for his head.

CONCACAF have 'provisionally dismissed' president Jeffrey Webb

CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb has been 'provisionally dismissed' by the governing body for football in North and Central America.

Mail Box

What Is It That FIFA Actually Do?

That's the question raised timidly by someone sat at the back of the room, whilst others remind that UEFA aren't perfect either. Plus a few more gone on to better XIs...

Time To Step Up, Mr Platini...

UEFA should step up and extend the Euros to replace FIFA's tarnished World Cup, say a couple of mailboxers. Also: all hail Carlo, King of the Kop, and plenty more Budget XIs...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company