BARCA SACK SERRA FERRER

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HAVING THREE players sent off and losing 3-1 to lowly Osasuna proved the final straw for the Barcelona board of directors as Llorenc Serra Ferrer was given his marching orders on Monday evening.

The news is hardly unexpected, the loss to Liverpool in Uefa Cup effectively ended Barcelona's season, the manner of their defeat tame and embarrassing, something that induced widespread criticism.

With arch-enemies Real Madrid cruising La Liga, an impressive 11 points clear and Barca facing the prospect of failing to qualify for the Champions League, Serra Ferrer was always on the precipice of disaster.

Camp Nou Cules can suffer defeats as long as their team play with pride and passion, something that has been lacking in recent games and having Ivan de la Pena, given a rare game, along with Sergi and Simao dismissed on Sunday showed the players had lost their discipline too.

All Serra Ferrer had to rely on was the continuous backing of president Joan Gaspart, however, the intervention of Carles Rexach forced Gaspart's hand and a meeting of Delegation Committee of Barcelona, 20 strong was called.

Speaking at the press conference, Gaspart said: "I believe the change of coach will be good for Barcelona and it was my proposal to the board to do this.

"Serra Ferrer did not agree with this decision, but he has accepted and understood."

Speaking about his new appointment, Gaspart continued: "This morning I asked Carles Rexach if he would be ready to be the new coach. He has said that he loves Barca and will do what the club wants.

"He feels pleased to be the new Barcelona coach.  We think he will work with confidence 
 
Rexach has asked for former Barcelona defender Alexanco to be his coaching assistant and for Secirulo to be his trainer.
 
Speaking about Serra Ferrer's place at Barca, Gaspart admitted he will continue as sporting director, saying: "I have told Serra Ferrer that on the one hand is the managerial position and another is sporting director.

"We will open a reflecting period until June 30 when we will think what we are going to do with Llorenc. Friendship and confidence has made it easier.
 
"Serra's assistant Jose Mari Bakero will continue at Barcelona but in another place," admitted Gaspart.
 
"We have the belief we will achieve Champions League qualification and can win the Spanish Cup.

"Every player's target for next year has been made by Serra Ferrer and Rexach. So next season's work is done."
 
Rexach was pleased to be confirmed as the new Barcelona coach, saying: "It is always disagreeable to start off as coach due to another one being sacked, but this job has these conditions and we have to be used to.
 
"I did not want to coach at this moment, but Barcelona needs me. This is my second home. I cannot fail. I think I have to be brave.

"Barcelona is in a delicate situation. We have to leave pessimism behind. There are 12 possible matches remaining. Seven League matches. Three Cup matches if we get to play in the final, and two Catalunya Cup matches. I hope to be good for the team.
 
"I am calm and with everybody's help we will go better."
 
Gaspart stated: "It is the saddest day of my presidential career. Today has been a black day, but tomorrow will be a blue and red day.

"We will recuperate passion. Barca has to try to win everything."

The 'Crisis of Barcelona' with Serra Ferrer is now at an end, but the speculation of who will replace him has continued unabated for several weeks.

Valencia coach, Hector Cuper has been installed as favourite, indeed the Champions League semi-finalists have already moved to fill his place, securing Alaves' Mane for next season.

The transfer of Juan Roman Riquelme and Javier Saviola, when and if both are completed, would lend weight to the argument that Cuper, Argentinian himself, has been preparing for the Barca hot-seat for some time.

However, the Cules, the hardcore followers of Barcelona, have been chanting for a return of one of their favourite sons, Johan Cruyff, a former player and coach.

Cruyff has repeatedly said he would not coach again, but the current state of the Barca team, combined with Real's supremacy could tip Gaspart into making a bold bid to reunite the fans with their idol.

Rexach, Cruyff's former right-hand man will be installed as coach until the end of the season. The sporting director at Barca had called the meeting to discuss the problems of the team's performance following the loss in the Uefa Cup semis coupled with the league defeat to Osasuna and finished by leading the team.

As announced this evening by Gaspart, the incorporation of Rexach as coach is provisionally only to the end of the season, as the board have other plans for next season.

Serra Ferrer had a contract until 2004 with Barcelona and should receive a pay-off in the region of 400 million pesetas from his current job, although he has been offered a new three-year deal to work behind the scenes.

However, the dismissal of Serra Ferrer throws the future of Patrick Kluivert and Rivaldo into the air, and surely Gaspart will do his upmost to keep these stars in Catalunya.