Ex-Hearts joint-manager Anatoly Korobochka has claimed his refusal to select former owner Vladimir Romanov for a friendly against match Barcelona led to his sacking at Tynecastle.
Hearts entertained a star-studded Barcelona before a crowd of almost 58,000 at Murrayfield in July 2007, with a Ronaldinho brace and a strike from Giovani dos Santos helping the Catalan giants to run out 3-1 winners.
A bizarre subtext to the match has now emerged – namely that controversial Lithuanian tycoon Romanov wished to turn out for Hearts and pit his wits against the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Yaya Toure and Andres Iniesta.
Korobochka, who was in charge alongside Stephen Frail, refused this unusual request and believes it was a factor in his January 2008 departure from the dugout on the back of five consecutive defeats.
Korobochka told the Edinburgh Evening News: “We played Barcelona in a friendly match and there were almost 60,000 fans there. Ronaldinho was at his peak and [Barcelona] were terrific.
“Before the game, Romanov approached me and told me he wants to play in the game. He wanted me to pick him. He wasn’t joking. I refused and told him he had done no training and therefore he couldn’t play. He said to me: ‘Fine, but you will not be the coach for long.’
“He sacked me soon after.”
Korobochka became Hearts’ director of football in 2006 – a role he returned to after his time as manager, eventually leaving the Scottish capital in July 2009.
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