Barcelona, Laporta decide to keep Koeman

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Ronald Koeman will continue as Barcelona’s coach next season following weeks of uncertainty surrounding his future, president Joan Laporta confirmed on Thursday.

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Laporta had said a “period of reflection” was needed after two wins in their final six games saw Barca miss out on the La Liga title. In the end, they finished outside the top two for the first time since 2008, although they did win the Copa del Rey.

“We’ve decided to continue with Ronald as first team coach,” Laporta said in a news conference. “We are satisfied that the conversations we have held have been fruitful and he’s motivated to remain in the job.”

Laporta had called Barca’s end to the campaign “incomprehensible” and promised changes, later saying that “losing must bring consequences.”

Talks followed with Koeman and his agent, Rob Jansen, last week, when Laporta asked the coach for 15 days to sound out possible replacements.

Jansen appeared to mock Laporta’s request on social media last Friday.

“Imagine: I want to marry you, but I have doubts,” he wrote. “Give me two weeks to find a better partner… If I can’t find the right person, we will get married anyway!”

However, with a lack of credible candidates to replace Koeman, coupled with having to pay between €8 million and €12 million to fire him, Laporta has decided to back the Dutchman, whose contract runs until next summer.

With Koeman’s future resolved, Laporta continues to rebuild the squad instead.

Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal have already signed this week, with talks at an advanced stage to sign Dutch internationals Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay on free transfers.

Sources say they are both expected to sign now that Koeman is staying. The coach initially wanted to bring them both in last summer when he was first appointed.

Koeman, 58, left his role as coach of the Netherlands to replace Quique Setien as Barca boss last August following the club’s 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

He took over at one of the most testing times in the club’s recent history. Barca had just completed a trophy-less season for the first time since 2007-08 and the coronavirus pandemic had accelerated the club’s financial problems, with gross debt rising to €1.2 billion.

Meanwhile, Koeman had to oversee a clearout of the club’s playing staff, with Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic all leaving, as well as trying to convince want-away Lionel Messi to stay.

Koeman has turned to youngsters to regenerate an ageing Barca side, with Oscar Mingueza, Ronald Araujo, Pedri Gonzalez and Ilaix Moriba all brought into the first team under him.

Off the pitch, there was a movement to remove the president who appointed Koeman, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who eventually resigned in October. That left Barca rudderless for five months, until Laporta was elected in March.

Despite all that, and having no money to invest in the squad in January, Barca won the Copa del Rey under Koeman and were still in the title race going into the final two weeks of the season.

Barca lost four of their first 10 league games and at one point were 12 points behind Atletico, who eventually won the league in the final week of the season.

A 19-game unbeaten run at the turn of the year helped Barca cut that gap on Atletico and, before losing to Granada in April, they had their destiny in their own hands.

However, just two wins in their final six games saw Barca tail off at the end of the campaign as they finished outside the top two for the first time in 13 years and failed to make 80 points for the first time since before Pep Guardiola was appointed.

In the Champions League, Barca were knocked out in the last 16 by Paris Saint-Germain, losing 5-2 on aggregate after a 4-1 defeat a Camp Nou in the first leg.



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