Guardiola urges release of jailed Catalan politicians

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola welcomed the result of elections in Catalonia on Thursday that gave pro-independence parties a majority in the Spanish region.

Guardiola has been vocal proponent of Catalan independence, recording a campaign video for the Junts pel Si party before regional elections in 2015 and speaking at a rally in favour of a referendum on the region's future in July this year.

When that referendum arrived in October, it was declared illegal by the national government in Madrid and the aftermath of a vote in favour of secession from Spain plunged the country into a constitutional crisis.

The Catalan parliament was dissolved, leading to this week's fresh elections, and prominent pro-independence politicians Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart were placed in preventive custody.

Sanchez and Cuixart have remained jailed since October 16 and Guardiola has sought to bring attention to their plight by wearing a yellow ribbon at all City matches since.

Speaking ahead of the Premier League leaders' game against Bournemouth on Saturday, Guardiola was asked for his thoughts on the elections where, despite their victory in terms of seats, pro-independence parties did not win the popular vote.

"The most important thing is a lot of people voted, I think more than 81 per cent. It's really amazing and shows Catalonia how it is in terms of votes," he said.

"I think Catalonia completely understands the reality of Spain. Catalonia is a people who love being Catalan.

"Now the rest of Spain - and especially the PP [Mariano Rajoy's ruling Partido Popular] - needs to understand that the reality in Catalonia is yesterday showed clearly what they want.

"Before they said it [the referendum] was an illegal election, yesterday was a legal election. I think the Catalan people expressed with their votes what they are.

"Now what I want is the people who are in jail can go out as soon as possible because it's not fair.

"And the second one is the politicians can start to make politics. Please start to talk, forget about the judged and try to do the best for Catalonia and for Spain. That is what everyone wants."

Reports emerged late on Thursday that Guardiola had been named in a police report in Spain investigating the push for Catalan independence.

According to El Nacional, the City boss is being investigated for his part in the July rally.

Asked at his news conference about the reports of possible police action, Guardiola nodded sternly and replied: "We will see what happens."

Barcelona travel to Real Madrid on Saturday - a fixture with which Guardiola will for ever be synonymous given his career at Camp Nou as a player and a manager.

Despite being well-versed in the politics of El Clasico, he does not expect additional tensions to come to the fore due to the Santiago Bernabeu clash taking place in such close proximity to the Catalan elections.

"No, I don't think so. It is a football game and they are going to play for three points," he added.

"I think the best way to express it was yesterday and it was a reality that a lot of people want to be like it was in the past and the other part of the people - the majority because they won - [want a future] in the terms of the parties that want independence.

"They have to try to start again to talk to the government and find what is the best solution for Catalonia and for Spain."

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