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Josep Lluis Nunez, president of Barcelona football club for the last 22 years, has decided to resign, the club's internet site revealed on Saturday.

Sports daily El Mundo Deportivo, with strong links with Barca, reported earlier Saturday that Nunez, whose mandate expires in 2002, made the decision on Thursday and will leave the club at the end of the season regardless of whether Barcelona win the Spanish league title.

The site "fcbarcelona.es" Spanish language section confirmed: "The official web page of Barcelona football club informs all the season-ticket holders and supporters of our club that the information published in El Mundo Deportivo is completely correct".

Nunez considers himself a victim of persecution, the paper continued.

For some weeks now, the atmosphere at the Nou Camp stadium has been tense, since a triple of Champions League, Spanish League and Cup was no longer on course.

Nunez has been criticized for the appointment of Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, whom detractors say is guilty of creating a club which is a mere annex to the Dutch national side. He has eight Dutchman on his books and Finn Jari Litmanen who used to play for Ajax.

Madrid newspapers, less in contact with the whispering in Nou Camp corridors, are nevertheless saying on Saturday that Nunez and van Gaal have agreed to a "diabolical pact."

Van Gaal has reportedly agreed to get rid of some of the Dutch players and Nunez will be selling European footballer of the year Rivaldo, with whom Van Gaal has had a rocky relationship this season.
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