AD Cueta coach Jose Juan Romero has called out Xavi Hernandez’s “inappropriate” comments after the Barcelona boss said his side had been lucky to draw the third division side in the Copa del Rey round of 16.
Xavi said he was relieved to avoid a match against one of the bigger teams left in the competition, and his comment about being fortunate was in relation to previous complaints about tough draws in Europe, with Barca facing Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in the Champions League group stage and Manchester United in the Europa League next month.
“It wasn’t a very appropriate comment to make,” Romero told Cadena Ser ahead of the tie, which will be played later in January. “He could have said it in another way. It hasn’t sat well with me, the club or anyone.
“We won’t go into the game to ask for shirts, we will go after them. Then, after the game, we will see who was lucky.”
Cueta have had to win three games to set up the match against Barca, including against second division Ibiza and LaLiga team Elche, while the Catalan side only entered the competition in the previous round.
Romero, who has spent the last decade coaching in Spain’s lower leagues, said Xavi’s lack of experience of anything below the top level may have been the reason for his comments.
“Maybe he doesn’t know what it takes for teams to reach this stage because he’s had a much easier path as a coach,” Romero added.
“I always try to have respect and, as I value the lower leagues so much, it’s not sat well with me. I admire Xavi. As a player, for me, he’s been one of the greatest Spain have produced, so it surprised me to be honest. I didn’t like it.”
Despite his comments, Xavi will be more than aware of the threat posed by Cueta after Barca needed extra-time to beat another third division side, Intercity, 4-3 in the previous round.
“For the first time since I have been here, we have been lucky with the draw, getting a team from a lower league,” Xavi said on Saturday [the previous draw for the round of 32 guaranteed Barca, due to their participation in Europe, a tie against a smaller side].
“But we have to show that on the pitch. We were on the ropes against Intercity. I have been to Cueta several times with Barca [as a player] and it’s not an easy trip. It’s not Manchester United, which is why I say about [having] luck, but we will go there with respect.”
Cueta — an autonomous Spanish city on the north coast of Africa, bordering Morocco — are bottom of their league with just two wins from 18 games, but the Copa del Rey, where they have already won three matches, has provided a welcome distraction from their struggles.
The match against Barca, which will be played at the 6,500-capacity Estadio Alfonso Murube, sees them welcome the LaLiga leaders and the 31-time winners of the Copa, more than any other club.