Fenerbahce manager Vitor Pereira’s pre-match press conference at Celtic Park last night was dominated by the Robin van Persie situation.
The 32-year-old Dutch striker hasn’t hidden his dissatisfaction at being benched for the last two games of the Istanbul club who he joined in the summer in a £3.5 million deal from Manchester United also said to be netting him £320,000-a-week.
A scoring substitute in both games, his goal at the weekend did not prevent Fenerbahce going down 3-2 to Besiktas for a first league loss of the season. Following on from the shock opening game Europa League defeat at home to Molde, the result has placed the club, and their new coach, under pressure ahead of tonight’s Group A tie at Celtic Park.
For his part, Pereira last night attempted to create the impression that any strained relations with Van Persie were just part of the rough and tumble in a highly-charged environment and overcooked by those reporting on the club. Yet he hardly succeeded in concealing that the former Arsenal forward is unlikely to become a friend for life.
“I have a great relationship with my team and players,” the 47-year-old said when asked about Van Persie. “Sometimes the tension is high. Our relationship is about the people who want to get better, and this team want to get better and improve. Robin van Persie is part of this team and we all want to improve our level and get better,
“We have our objectives and we are focussed on that. Sometimes these high tensions happen. But in football you can solve the situation perfectly. Many times in football you need tension to win the game, you need these moments
“If everything goes in peace, if it is calm all the time, then you cannot win games. These kind of things are normal.
“I understand their [the media] point of view, you like to see newspapers and make news about it, but these kind of things are small things for us and we solve it really fast.”
So keen was Pereira on focusing on the meeting with Celtic, a later enquiry as to whether Van Persie might have done enough to earn a start with his goals from the bench was well and truly slapped down. “I am sorry... Nani is here so ask him a question,” he said. “I have 18 players in Scotland, 25 in total, and we play as a team, speak as a team, and I have to respect all my players because everyone has the same importance.”
Nani, the other former Old Trafford performer in the Fenerbahce ranks, said: “We know how the fans are here and we must focus because it’s going to be a hard game. We are prepared and have worked hard for this moment.”