Laporta says Koeman will retain Barcelona coaching job

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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 numerous 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 at Benfica on Wednesday that sparked various reports that Koeman’s days were numbered.

Barcelona have lost both of their Champions League games without generating a single shot on target and risk missing out on the round of 16 for the first time in 20 years.

Koeman himself said on Friday that he imagines the rumors of his exit were “probably true”.

Spain‘s league game at Atlético comes ahead of a hiatus from club competitions for national teams, which would have given Barcelona management a window to take a step. 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 is 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 skyrocketing 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 a 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 condition to shell out for 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 midfielder Pedri González. He now insists that 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. .

“After speaking with him I see that he believes in this team, especially after they have regained their full strength with healthy players that we need to be competitive,” said Laporta. “We haven’t been in power for that long and need a margin of error, and we need to treat Koeman the same.”

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