'We were far superior!' - Barcelona didn't depend on referees during 'golden era', insists Gerard Pique
- Payments made to officials committee
- Blaugrana dominant during that period
- Ex-defender insists there was no wrongdoing
WHAT HAPPENED? It has been revealed that the Liga giants made several payments to Enriquez Negreira between 2001 and 2018 when he was vice-president of the referees’ committee in Spain. Rival clubs are now accusing Barca of buying favour from match officials during a period of remarkable success that saw them collect domestic and Champions League honours.
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WHAT THEY SAID: Legendary defender Pique, who represented Barca between 2008 and 2022, is not having the accusations levelled against the Catalan giants and has pointed out to RAC1 that the Blaugrana were so good during that time that they did not require outside assistance. He has said: “I put my hand in the fire that Barça have not bought off referees. If you want to buy a referee, it’s as easy as giving him an envelope in black. You don’t go to a vice-president of the Technical Committee of Referees. There is no logic to it. We are used to conspiracies and campaigns from here on.
“As much as they want to tarnish it, it’s such a golden era… it’s no longer what we won but how it was won. They can review everything. We were far, far superior. We didn’t depend on the referees. I would pass over it and move on to the next. It’s true that the Public Prosecutor’s Office is involved, but I trust the club.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Barca maintain that payments were made to Negreira for reports on youth players and referee behaviour, with Pique adding: “We didn’t know that the club paid this man. The players, especially those of us who have been here for more years, already know about the referees, but it’s good for the coaches, especially those who come from outside, to have these reports. As a player, I don’t know if that’s what this man’s job was.”
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WHAT NEXT? Barcelona intend to clear their name in court, with Clasico rivals Real Madrid having now joined the case against them ahead of a meeting between two old adversaries at Camp Nou on Sunday – with the Blaugrana heading into that contest sat nine points clear at the top of La Liga.