Former Barcelona midfielder Emmanuel Petit has claimed that the Catalan influence at the club “is very close to racism”.
The Frenchman was part of a double deal which saw him and Marc Overmars swap Arsenal for Camp Nou in the summer of 2000 but only lasted a season before returning to the Premier League with Chelsea.
However, in light of the Catalan parliamentary elections taking place on Sunday, Petit explained how Barca’s support for a Catalan state resulted in nationalistic tensions during his time at the club.
“I arrived at a very bad time. There was a war in the dressing room between Dutch and Catalan players,” he told the BBC World Football Show.
“And on top of it we had a manager [Lorenzo Serra Ferrer] who didn't have enough strength or charisma to manage the team.
“Politics and nationalism was too much for me in the dressing room. I was so happy to join Barcelona but I just wanted to concentrate on football.
“Every day I was dealing with things I wasn’t supposed to do. As soon as I arrived people said ‘don’t try to learn Castilian [Spanish], you have to speak Catalan’.
“I said ‘I’m in Spain, no?’ and they said ‘no, you’re in Catalonia’. I’m fed up with that kind of thing.
“I understand their identity but when it’s too much, it’s very close to racism.
“We’re talking about football – not religion or politics. I wanted to leave. I thought I made a big mistake.”