sport

Barca chief in 'worst moment'

Andoni Zubizarreta has acknowledged Barcelona's recent results have left him experiencing his "worst moment as sporting director", but backed coach Gerardo Martino to see out his contract.

Saturday's shock 1-0 Primera Division defeat at Granada meant the reigning champions finished the weekend third in the standings - four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid - with five games remaining.

The loss in Andalusia came hot on the heels of the midweek Champions League exit at the hands of Los Rojiblancos, and Zubizarreta admitted it was a tough time.

"If we talk about results, it's my worst moment as sporting director," he told Catalan television channel TV3.

"We played so well (at Granada), with 80 per cent of possession. (But) we lacked tranquility in the final pass."

The 52-year-old, who took over his role from Txiki Begiristain in July 2010 and oversaw unprecedented success on the pitch in his first two years with Pep Guardiola as coach, remained confident in Martino.

"He's going to fulfil his contract," the former Barca goalkeeper added of the Argentinian, who signed a two-year deal last summer.

"He has said that I do not know how many times.

"Right now, he is our coach and I am very proud of his work."

Barca's season got off to an up-and-down start, as, after completing the much-coveted signing of Brazil forward Neymar from Santos, Guardiola's successor Tito Vilanova was forced to step down to continue cancer treatment.

Zubizarreta continued: "We started the season with a press conference with Tito (as our coach), and the next day we did not have him.

"However, I would not change anything we planned last summer because we signed the player everyone wanted and we have a balanced and competitive workforce."

Star striker Lionel Messi has come under the spotlight lately due to a rare dip in form, but Zubizarreta was quick to play down concerns over the Argentina forward's wellbeing.

"What 's wrong with Leo? We're used to seeing him do magic and he feels that responsibility," he said, with one eye perhaps on Wednesday's Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid at the Mestalla.

"Leo is fine and I have no doubt that he will give us the joy that he wants to give us."

And Zubizarreta recalled the 26-year-old kissing the Barca badge after completing his hat-trick in the 4-3 Clasico win at the Bernabeu last month as all the evidence needed of the player's commitment to the Catalan outfit.

"There is little to add," he said.