Barca president says Lionel Messi will remain "pillar of our project" and opens door for Philippe Coutinho to stay
Wednesday 19 August 2020 10:36, UK
Ronald Koeman has agreed in principle to become Barcelona manager and club president Josep Bartomeu says he expects the Dutchman to be in charge next season.
Quique Setien was sacked in a meeting with technical director Eric Abidal - who himself left the club on Tuesday - just days after the humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.
In an interview on the club's website on Tuesday, Bartomeu said: "If nothing goes wrong, Koeman will be Barca's coach next season.
"We already know how he thinks and his philosophy."
Koeman, the Netherlands head coach, was first contacted by Barcelona about becoming head coach at the beginning of the year, with Bartomeu adding: "We bet on him. He was the first one we called in January. It's a dream for him."
Barca officials are in talks with the Dutch FA over compensation for Koeman, who played for the Catalan club between 1989 and 1995.
He was a member of Johan Cruyff's hugely successful side, known as the 'Dream Team', and scored the only goal of the game against Sampdoria in the 1992 European Cup final.
Bartomeu added: "As he was in Johan's 'Dream Team', he knows Barca and how we understand football."
Asked whether he would like to return to Barcelona, Koeman told reporters outside the Dutch Football Federation headquarters on Tuesday: "Yes, I'd like to, but it will only be confirmed once I have signed the contract.
"Until then, I cannot say any more about it - even though I'd like to."
In the wake of the heavy defeat to Bayern, there has been speculation that Barca icon Lionel Messi might end his long stint with the club, but Koeman wants the Argentine to stay.
Bartomeu said: "I have spoken with Koeman and the pillar of our project is Messi. He has a contract until 2021.
"I speak a lot with Leo and more regularly with his father.
"He is number one in the world. There is no doubt that in Koeman's new project you can count on Messi."
Former Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho has spent the season on loan from Barca at Bayern Munich - and came off the bench to score twice against his parent club on Friday.
The Brazilian has been linked with a possible return to the Premier League but Bartomeu says his Barca stint is not necessarily over.
"The head coach will make the decision," said Bartomeu.
"If he wants him to continue, next year he will play with us."
Barcelona have also brought forward the date of the next presidential elections, which will now take place on the first matchday after March 15, 2021.
Elections have normally taken place in the summer, usually in June, but they have resisted calls for an immediate ballot to be held, saying it is "not feasible".
"After considering all options, the board consider this to be the most viable date for the aforementioned elections," a statement read.
"The board understand that an immediate call for elections is not feasible, given that the league season will begin on the weekend of September 12, 2020, and the situation arising from the COVID-19 crisis - both economically and socially.
"Consequently, the club will continue to implement the plan to reverse the sporting and economic situation, based on profound changes to the first team, plus a redefined budget to deal with the new situation caused by COVID-19, before the end of the current mandate."
Spanish football expert Graham Hunter explained to Sky Sports News that candidate Victor Font wants Xavi in charge, meaning Koeman could head to the Nou Camp knowing he will only take over for a year.
"There's a clear formula why they are talking to Ronald Koeman, and why he's the one they want. Number one, it's absolutely clear within the next year there will be presidential elections, the man who is very well placed to win those, Victor Font is absolutely committed to bringing Xavi," Hunter said.
"So this is currently a one-year shot. Koeman is being told he can have a two-year deal which effectively seems to mean a year of work and almost certainly a year of compensation. The fact is that when the new president comes in, Font is completely committed to Xavi.
"Xavi won't come in the mean time, so it needs someone of experience, someone who knows the Nou Camp inside out, speaks the language and has a good reputation of coaching younger players - there are players on the fringes at Barcelona.
"That's why Koeman fits all those boxes, and it would appear Barcelona have fixed this deal with the Netherlands, and that Koeman, who has wanted this job for 20 years has said I'll roll the dice, I'll risk it only being a year."
Gerard Pique called for wholesale changes at the Nou Camp following Friday's humiliation in the Champions League, even suggesting his own departure to help the club rebuild.
"We can't compete like that, you can't play like that in Europe. It is not the first time, the second time or the third time, it's very tough. I hope it is useful for something," Pique told the club's website after Friday's defeat.
"Now everyone has to have a good look at themselves, the club needs change and I am not talking about the coach or the players. I am not pointing the finger at anyone.
"Nobody is safe - I am the first to say that I will go if new blood has to come in, I am the first to leave. We have to have a real look internally about what is best for the club."
Analysis by Spanish football expert Terry Gibson on Transfer Talk Podcast
"The elections are really prominent now in what happens at Barcelona. The elections are in a year's time. Nobody is happy with the current board of people who run it, particularly Josep Bartomeu the president. He will be voted out. He can't stay any longer anyway.
"That is the reason why Xavi turned the job down. Xavi is going to be on the ticket of one of the new campaigners to become the president. Therefore, Xavi doesn't want to go in for a year with this president and not too many other managers want to go in knowing that in a year's time a new president is going to be announced and when that new president makes his campaign, they will all have their managers that they're putting on the ticket. Xavi if he backs one, that person will probably win.
"In a year's time Xavi is going to be the manager of Barcelona. But which top manager in world football is really going to fancy babysitting the job for a year until the new president comes in, and you're probably going to get fired."
Analysis by Spanish football expert Terry Gibson on Transfer Talk Podcast
"Barcelona have to make some changes. Their squad isn't big enough. In the second half of the season it was down to 19 senior players. They have struggled to fill the bench in La Liga games with the allowed amount of substitutions.
"The last La Liga game of the season they had five subs on the bench and two of them were goalkeepers. Three players got injured and were replaced and the next outfield player to come on as a sub was going to be (Marc-Andre) ter Stegen.
"That's how short of numbers they were. They had suspensions, injuries and the B team had a play-off match coming up. There's no way Barcelona should be going into games with only three outfield subsitutues.
"They need bodies. They've suffered with the fact (Ousmane) Dembele and (Samuel) Umtiti haven't played enough football for Barcelona this season. Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati have bolstered the squad and that's been a big plus - in this time of need, two young players have risen through the ranks and shown their worth."