Barcelona appoint Koeman as club navigates choppy waters

(Update 1: Adds quotes from presentation)

Barcelona, Spain, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- FC Barcelona on Wednesday appointed Ronald Koeman as the new manager of the first team with a two-season contract until 2022.

The Dutchman replaces Quique Setién, who was sacked after just eight months in charge following the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Uefa Champions League quarter-finals this month.

Koeman will be Barcelona’s third manager in the space of a year. The club had embarked on the 2019/20 season with Ernesto Valverde at the helm since 2017. His tenure came to an abrupt end in January following a string of lacklustre performances culminating in a 3-2 loss to Atlético de Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa.

At his presentation on Wednesday, the Dutchman said he was looking forward to working with Lionel Messi.

“Messi wins you games,” he said, speaking in Spanish. “He’s the best in the world. You want him in your team.”

Amid rumors the Argentina star wants to leave the club, Koeman said: “I don’t know if I have to convince Messi. If he wants to stay, I’ll be more than happy, but he has a year left on his contract. Therefore, he is a Barça player.”

He added: “I only want to work with people who want to be here, to give their maximum for Barcelona.”

He nonetheless acknowledged that changes were needed in the squad.

“We have to work hard to recover our prestige. We have to make changes. The image the other day (against Bayern) is not the one we want.”

Koeman played for the Catalan giants between 1989-95, time in which he scored 88 goals and lifted 10 trophies, including four LaLiga titles and a European Cup.

After hanging up his boots as a player, Koeman was briefly an assistant manager at Barcelona, between 1998-2000.

Since then, his managing career has spanned two decades and includes stints at Ajax, Valencia, Southampton, Everton and, most recently, the Netherlands national team.

The Dutch team’s football director Eric Gudde in a statement said he regretted but respected Koeman’s decision to leave. The manager had been slated to take the Netherlands into the EURO 2020.

In the same statement, Koeman said: “It was an honor to be the national coach of the Netherlands.

“I look back with pride on what we have achieved together in that period. The Dutch national team has a bright future, I am convinced of that.”

He added: “Everyone knows that Barcelona is my dream club. It feels very special to me to be able to become a coach there.”

But his appointment comes at a tumultuous time for this year’s LaLiga runners-up.

Club presidential elections have been brought forward to just seven months from now, meaning Koeman’s position could be vulnerable if new leadership is appointed.

The club’s sporting director Eric Abidal was relieved of his duties on Tuesday and there is speculation that the club’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, is looking to offload players this summer to pay off huge debts.

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