Guardiola criticism 'political', says Del Bosque

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Vicente del Bosque claims criticism of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola back in Spain is politically motivated.

Guardiola returned to his old club Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, but City were outclassed in a chastening 4-0 defeat.

That outcome, following an indifferent run of results, has prompted the first real criticism of the 45-year-old's early tenure at the Etihad Stadium.

Former Spain coach Del Bosque, though, has offered his endorsement, suggesting Guardiola's controversial opinions - including his vocal support for Catalan independence - have not helped his cause.

"[Guardiola] was a champion with Bayern Munich, we cannot judge him by his last game," Del Bosque told COPE.

"He has done different things, has been leading others and then many teams have imitated him.

"There are political grounds in criticism of Guardiola, but we have to appreciate what Guardiola means in world football. His opinions have just hurt him in Spain."

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has also been criticised for supporting the notion that Catalonia should break away from Spain, with recent disapproval leading to him publicly discussing the prospect of international retirement.

As with Guardiola, though, Del Bosque has shown his support for the Spain centre-back.

"It is a matter that [Pique] has explained well enough," he said.

"He always had good behaviour and came to train in the right manner. He is playful, cheerful, he likes to joke and does not like to create problems. I have never heard him discussing independence, as with [Carles] Puyol and Xavi [Hernandez].

"I think he should, and will, go down in history as a great player for Spain. He has earned the right to decide whether to continue or not."