Messi will be key to Koeman’s set up, says Barcelona president

Dutch manager arrived in the Catalan capital on Tuesday and will take over in coming days

Ronald Koeman arrives at Barcelona airport on Tuesday. Photo: Joan Valls/Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ronald Koeman arrives at Barcelona airport on Tuesday. Photo: Joan Valls/Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

 

Ronald Koeman will be the next coach of Barcelona, the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed at the end of another dramatic day at the Camp Nou, which began with the departure of the sporting director, Eric Abidal, less than 24 hours after Quique Setién was sacked.

Koeman arrived in the Catalan capital on Tuesday and although his appointment as the new manager has not yet been formally announced, Bartomeu told the club’s TV channel that he would take over in the coming days “if nothing goes awry”. He announced the departure of a series of dressing-room heavyweights but insisted that Messi would not be among them. “Koeman has told me that Messi will be a cornerstone,” he said. Barcelona’s president also insisted that his own departure would be an act of “irresponsibility” and that Abidal had asked to leave.

“If nothing goes awry, [Koeman] will be the new coach”, Bartomeu said. “[It is] a different project with a coach we know – how he works, how he thinks, the way he behaves. He knows our philosophy, our way of playing.”

Bartomeu added that Barcelona had spoken to Koeman in December when they sacked Ernesto Valverde, but that he had been unable to come because of his commitment to lead the Netherlands into Euro 2020. His arrival depends on reaching an agreement with the Dutch FA.

Barcelona will undergo dramatic cost-cutting measures aimed at saving close to €200m and rejuvenating the squad, seeking departures for older, more expensive players. Barely a handful of footballers are considered untouchable by the club. Bartomeu named only Messi, Marc-André ter Stegen, Ansu Fati, Clément Lenglet, Nélson Semedo, Ousmane Dembélé and Antoine Griezmann. He suggested that older players – although he did not name the likes of Jordi Alba, Luis Suárez, Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets – would be offered an “honourable” exit.

Messi’s contract expires next year and there are doubts about his desire to continue. He has so far remained silent amid reports that he wants to leave. Bartomeu insisted that Messi wants to end his career at the club, although he admitted he had not spoken to him yet. He said he had, though, spoken to Messi’s father Jorge.

Another of those untouchable players, Ter-Stegen, is yet to renew his contract and will be out of action until November with an injury.

Abidal attracted criticism for his handling of the departure of Ernesto Valverde in January – the first Barcelona coach to be sacked midway through a season for 16 years – and the search for a replacement. With few candidates available, Barcelona eventually settled on Setién, having been turned down by Xavi and Koeman.

Abidal was publicly criticised by Messi after he blamed the players for Valverde’s departure and claimed that some “don’t like working”. The Frenchman’s sacking represents the fifth change made to the role of sporting director during Bartomeu’s six-year presidency. Andoni Zubizarreta was sacked at the start of 2015 as Bartomeu sought to ride out a crisis. Zubizarreta’s assistant, Carles Puyol, walked out immediately after that sacking.

Next came a committee made up of Charly Rexach, Ariedo Braida, Javi Bordas and Jordi Mestre, which was then replaced by Robert Fernández. He was subsequently joined by Pep Segura. When Fernández departed, Abidal and Ramón Planes joined Segura, who then left.

Abidal worked with Planes until his departure – the latest victim of the crisis, but almost certainly not the last. – Guardian

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