PEP Guardiola, the Bayern Munich manager and Barcelona icon, is to stand for election to the Catalan parliament as part of the campaign for his native region to gain independence from Spain, according to reports.
Spanish newspaper El Pais said the 44-year-old would stand as the final candidate on the electoral list for the pro-independence alliance set to run in September’s election.
Despite being unable to win a seat in the regional parliament due to being last on the list, Guardiola’s status as a Barcelona legend - he won 14 trophies in four years as manager, and 16 as a player - would be something of a figurehead for the independence movement.
Guardiola, who was born in Santpedor, a town in central Catalonia, has publicly backed the movement for Catalonia’s independence and flew back from Munich in November last year to vote in the symbolic ballot held by regional leaders.
The Spanish government is strongly opposed to Catalan independence, and has embarked on several court challenges against president Artur Mas and his attempts to set up a full referendum.
Leaders in the region now want to hold a regular regional election in late September, to serve as a de facto ballot on independence.
Mas’s centre-right CDC (Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya) party and the left-wing ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) agreed a deal last week to run on a joint ticket backing independence, along with the leaders of influential pro-independence organisations such as the ANC (Assemblea Nacional Catalana) and Òmnium Cultural, a civil group set up in the 1960s to promote the language and culture of Catalonia.
The parties have agreed to form a coalition government aimed at securing independence within 18 months if they can win a joint majority.