The former director of Barcelona’s youth teams has been accused of child sexual abuse, according to a report by the Catalan media.
Authorities in northeastern Spain have opened an investigation after the newspaper NOW reported that over 60 of his former students accuse Albert Benaiges of sexually abusing them while he was a physical education teacher at a public school in Barcelona.
NOW said Benaiges, 71, denied the allegations.
Benaiges was a key member of Barcelona’s youth academy from 1991 to 2011, coinciding with a generation of the club’s best players, including Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
It seems none of the former Barcelona players have joined the allegations.
Barcelona manager Xavi said he was “surprised and stunned” by the allegations against Benaiges.
“I don’t have any information that there has been any kind of these incidents, although that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen,” Xavi added at a pre-match press conference.
“He was my coach and I never had any suspicions. I’m very surprised and stunned, I didn’t expect it.
“This is a very delicate, very complicated issue.
“I spoke to the coaching staff because we love Albert Benaiges very much. He surprised us a lot. We have always had a great relationship and left an excellent legacy.
“It will be justice that will have to decide”.
After a spell abroad with foreign clubs, Benaiges returned to Barcelona last year following Joan Laporta’s return to the presidency. He resigned last week for personal reasons, the club said.
Laporta said the club was looking into information relating to the case.
“This man who left the club for personal reasons was hired for his talent in finding players and evaluating the talent of young people,” said Laporta.
“What the club is doing is gathering all the information that is coming out so that they can make an official statement.
I will also say that anyone who tries to improperly link Barcelona to his issue will receive a firm response from the club to defend his legitimate interests. “