BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – In an unexpected move, the Barcelona club president on Saturday withdrew reports of the impending dismissal of Ronald Koeman when he said the Dutch coach would retain his post.
“Koeman will continue to be the coach of Barcelona,” Joan Laporta said hours before Barcelona’s game at Atlético Madrid as many reports in the Spanish media speculated it could be Koeman’s last.
“Today, whatever the outcome, Koeman will always be Barcelona coach,” Laporta told reporters in Madrid. “He’s got a contract, (and) we’re hoping he can get us back on the winning streak, playing the way we want. I know he’s going to give it his all.
It was Laporta’s first public statement since a bitter 3-0 defeat to Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday sparked various reports that Koeman’s days were numbered.
Koeman himself said on Friday he imagines rumors of his exit to be “probably true” with Barcelona losing both of their Champions League games, putting him in danger of not qualifying for the first round of 16. times in 20 years.
Laporta’s public support for Koeman came before another humiliating defeat: a 2-0 loss to Atlético by Diego Simeone.
After the game, Koeman said he wished Laporta had backed him up earlier, but “it’s never late to clarify where we are all”.
“I spoke (with Laporta) last night by phone and this morning about the squad and my situation, and asked the club to clarify their stance on their coach,” Koeman said. “It’s very important for me as a coach and for the team, and it’s important for the president to make this decision. But I know it’s Barcelona and we have to win games.
Koeman said he doesn’t know how long Laporta will stay by his side if the results don’t improve. He stressed that a three-game home streak after next week’s international break was key to starting a turnaround.
Spanish media had reported that Laporta was considering Xavi Hernández, Andrea Pirlo and Roberto Martínez as possible replacements.
But, at least for now, Laporta is alongside the former Barcelona defender who has etched his name in the history of the Catalan club thanks to his final goal which earned Barcelona their first of five European Cups. in 1992.
“We think he needs our trust because he’s one of us; he loves Barca, ”said Laporta of Koeman, who left his post as Netherlands coach to take over the club at the start of the 2020-21 season amid institutional turmoil which ultimately led to the resignation of ex-president Josep Bartomeu.
“He has decided to become Barcelona coach at a time of extreme difficulty for the club both on the pitch and in the boardroom,” Laporta said. “It’s complicated, the results are not good. But I ask our fans to keep their confidence in our coach; he deserves it and he believes in this team.
As a coach, Koeman had to overcome the club’s financial crisis caused by the mismanagement of Laporta’s predecessors and the pandemic. The collapse in income and rising debt forced Barcelona to let Lionel Messi go and get rid of other players, including Antoine Griezmann, this summer.
Laporta’s relationship with Koeman, 58, however, has never been ideal. Laporta actively sought to replace him during the last offseason, only to decide to keep him.
It is possible that one factor influencing Laporta’s retention with Koeman is the financial bite the cash-strapped club would face in breaking their contract which is set to expire at the end of the season.
Barcelona closed the 2020-21 fiscal year with 481 million euros ($ 557 million) in losses and in poor shape to shell out severance pay. His salary cap was reduced to 97 million euros ($ 113 million), around 285 million euros ($ 334 million) less than a year ago and seven times less than that of Real Madrid.
And Koeman’s outspokenness, rarely hesitating to formulate what he sees as fair criticism of the players and the club, has perhaps also reprimanded at times. On Wednesday, for example, he said that while he felt the support of his players, he had no idea if the club were still behind him.
But Koeman led Barcelona to the Copa del Rey title last season and has successively trained several young players, including Spain’s midfielder Pedri González. He now insists the team must recover injured players like Ousmane Dembelé and Martin Braithwaite and that Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho, who have recently recovered from injuries, return to their full form before his potential can truly be judged. .
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