Barcelona inspired to claim title as tribute to injured Villa


Staff Writer

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has vowed to overcome the loss of David Villa and win the Club World Cup after the striker broke his shinbone in Thursday’s semifinal victory over Al Sadd.

Villa went down challenging for a ball in the 39th minute of the European champions’ 4-0 win over the Qataris at Nissan Stadium, with substitute Alexis Sanchez being immediately summoned from the bench as Villa left the pitch on a stretcher.

Guardiola confirmed after the game that the 30-year-old had suffered a fractured tibia in his left leg, putting his participation in Spain’s defense of its European Championship title next summer in doubt, not to mention Barcelona’s final showdown with Santos on Sunday.

“David has fractured his leg and will be escorted back to Barcelona for an operation,” Guardiola said after the match. “He will be out for a long time. I don’t know how long, but it takes time to recover from a break like this.

“We all love David. We are all worried about him. The same thing could happen to anyone. We will have to play without him to try to win the title of the world’s No. 1 team. Our spirit is with David.”

Barcelona had its work cut out trying to break through an Al Sadd side that had little interest in attacking, but two first-half goals from Adriano and one each after the break for Seydou Keita and substitute Maxwell secured the Catalans’ passage to the final.

“We didn’t give Al Sadd a chance,” said Guardiola. “They defended with a lot of players, and it was difficult to go through that.

“Al Sadd played with nine defenders, with (Kader) Keita and (Mamadou) Niang — players with the ability to hit quickly on the counterattack — back there too. But there were so many defenders that it was very difficult to find space. It was a dangerous match.”

Brazil’s Santos now awaits Barcelona in Sunday’s final, with young stars Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso having already shown the tournament what they are capable of in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Kashiwa Reysol.

“Santos have a very good history,” said Guardiola. “Pele used to play for them, they have developed some great players and they are still producing great players. We are happy to play them.”

But Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano warned that Santos is more than just a two-man team.

“They are really good,” said Mascherano, who played for Corinthians in Brazil before moving to Europe. “They have very important players obviously with Neymar and Ganso. But they also have players with experience that I know because I played in Brazil. The coach is very clever as well.”

Stars will come: Platini


UEFA President Michel Platini does not think Europe’s biggest teams will start withholding their best players for the Club World Cup despite a potential season-ending injury to Barcelona’s David Villa at the tournament.

Platini, however, does not believe Barcelona nor any other European giant will begin pulling its stars because of the increasing allure of the Club World Cup.

“I think Barcelona, Juventus, Milan or Inter, they want to win this trophy because it’s the most important trophy for them,” Platini said Friday.

Platini also said he would love to see Lionel Messi win a third Ballon d’Or next month, and eventually overtake him in the record books. Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten are the only others to have won the honor three times.

“I’m very happy for him,” Platini said. “He’s a fantastic player. I want him to pass my record, not just match it.

“I won my first Ballon d’Or when I was 28, but he’s already won it twice at the age of 24. Records are meant to be broken. He has the technique, the pace and he even scores with headers.

“He can do everything.”