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The Laporta years

Former president Joan Laporta revealed just how close Barcelona came to signing David Beckham from Manchester United as he lifted the lid on his golden spell at the Nou Camp, on Revista.

Last Updated: 15/05/13 at 08:15 Post Comment

The Catalan club attempted to sign former England skipper Beckham in 2003 only to be pipped by Real Madrid despite having an agreement signed in principal with United.

Nevertheless, Barca went on to win 13 trophies - including two Champions Leagues - during Laporta's tenure, which ran from 2003 to 2010.

Laporta, 50, looked back on his time in charge in the company of Scott Minto and Guillem Balague, who grilled him on a range of subjects including:

Trying to sign Beckham in 2003: We said we'd put Barcelona on top of the football world and that we'd incorporate Ronaldinho or Beckham or Thierry Henry. We talked to Manchester United to find out the possibility of incorporating Beckham; we reached an agreement with Manchester United at Heathrow Airport. We had to wait for an answer from his agent, which arrived after our elections, and Beckham signed for Real Madrid. We incorporated Ronaldinho, who was a great player at that time and wanted to follow in the footsteps of Ronaldo and Romario.

Appointing Frank Rijkaard in 2003: The beginning of the season was very difficult but in the middle of the season we decided to incorporate Edgar Davids to balance the middle of the team with a strong midfielder. I decided to trust in Frank Rijkaard [despite a poor start] and I had some problems with my board of directors who wanted to replace the coach but following Frank had to stay and it was a good decision because then we started to play better. We finished the season second and were almost champions so it was a good decision to trust in Frank.

Signing Samuel Eto'o in 2004: The commercial rights belonged to Real Madrid, so it was very difficult, and the sporting rights belonged to Majorca. In the end we forced the situation by offering Majorca an amount of money we felt sure they would accept and then Real had nine days to put the same amount of money up. They decided not to and we established a striking combination that in my opinion was one of the best in the history of Barcelona FC. Frank managed the Eto'o-Ronaldinho situation very well. They needed each other and had enough intelligence to understand it and it was a great season that we won the league.

Winning the Champions League in 2006: I remember it was a very tough game because Arsenal did very well. It seemed that we were in a better position to win the final after Jens Lehmann was sent off but Arsenal scored but Frank brought on Henrik Larsson and Andres Iniesta, we scored twice. I have very good memories of that night. After that we had to replace the leaders. We'd won everything and we couldn't manage the situation - there was a kind of relaxation. No-one understands what happens after winning such a big championship. We had to take the decision to renovate the team, in the leaders in the team and the coach position.

Choosing Pep Guardiola over Jose Mourinho in 2008: Jose Mourinho is a great professional. I respect him very much and I was talking to the agent, Jorge Mendes, who phoned me because I have a very good relationship with him and I told Jorge it would not be possible because I decided on Pep Guardiola. Why? Because Pep had a great history in the club as a young player, as a captain and he'd been trained by Johan Cruyff as the coach of the Dream Team period. Pep loved the club because his heart is Barca and he's a Barca fan, but at the same time he knows very well the genuine style of football at Barca. He was kind of a coach on the pitch when he was a player and I trusted in his knowledge. At the same time we were contributing to a very nice history of Barcelona. At that time there was no sense in incorporating a new coach that has another philosophy. In my period we defended the Johan Cruyff philosophy. I had Frank Rijkaard in my first period of presidency and I had Pep Guardiola in the second part of my mandate. There was no sense in putting in a different philosophy. I respect his philosophy, but I prefer the genuine style of playing football that Barcelona had developed for many years.

Replacing Ronaldinho with Lionel Messi: We had to change Ronaldinho for Messi and the change was very important. Messi in my opinion is the best player in history; he's modest, humble and he has a great personality as well. Immediately he was aware that he had to be the leader on the pitch and he had a very good relationship with Xavi , Iniesta, Pique, Puyol, Valdes, Busquets and all the players that came from our youth set-up. At the same time, I went to Ronaldinho's house to announce to him that it was the end. We were crying at that time because I very much respect this player because he gave us everything, but we had to replace the leaders. Then I went to Messi's house to explain to him that he had to be the leader of the team on the pitch. It was not easy to change Ronaldinho for Messi but we had to do it. The model worked but we had to replace the leaders. On the bench we replaced Rijkaard with Guardiola and in the team we had to replace Ronaldinho with the great players that are Messi, Xavi, iniesta, Puyol, Victor and all of them.

Barca's victory in this season's La Liga: The celebrations were big - more than half-a-million people were on the streets following the team. But it's true that we were a little bit disappointed because we expected to be in the Champions League final at Wembley. We expected it because we have a good enough team to get there. But that doesn't matter now. Next time we will do it. We've had a lot of difficulties this season and fortunately we have won the league - the 22nd league title in our history.

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

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