Beleaguered Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman is to stay in his position, club president Joan Laporta has announced.
It had seemed inevitable that Koeman would be the one to pay the price for Barcelona's disastrous start to their Champions League campaign, where they have lost consecutive matches 3-0 to Bayern Munich and Benfica, with the Dutchman himself appearing to acknowledge after the latter of those two games that his future was out of his hands. Laporta has not particularly hidden his doubts about Koeman and spent the summer searching for alternative candidates before settling on a second year with the incumbent.
Barcelona began the weekend seventh in the La Liga table ahead of a crucial match against reigning champions Atletico Madrid, one in which their former strikers Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann could have piled further humiliation on the faltering Catalans. In the pre-match press conference Koeman offered every impression of a man who knew his time was up, noting that there had been leaks from within the club even as he said he had not been given any clear indication over his future.
That has now come from Laporta, who told local media: "Ronald Koeman will continue as Barca coach, we feel he deserves a certain amount of confidence for many reasons. He's a Barca fan, a reference for the supporters. He will continue and deserves some confidence.
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"Koeman loves Barca and decided to come at a really difficult moment for the club institutionally and sportingly. After speaking with him, I see he has faith in the team, above all when he gets the injured players back. He has a contract [until the summer] and we hope to get back to winning ways and playing well. I am sure he will do everything possible.
It has been suggested that Barcelona, whose financial crisis this summer saw them unable to extend Lionel Messi's contract and pressured them into loaning Antoine Griezmann to Atleti, have retained Koeman simply because they cannot afford to sack him. Alternative options that have been linked with the job include former Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo, Belgium's Roberto Martinez and Marcelo Gallardo, who has enjoyed great success with River Plate in Argentina.
Laporta insisted that his relationship with Koeman, widely believed to have deteriorated over recent months, remains strong after clear the air talks with the Dutchman, who played 264 games for the club between 1989 and 1995, winning the European Cup in 1992. "I've spoken with him and drawn my own conclusions," said the Barca president. "I value the moment he took over the club in. We spoken and it's not true the relationship between us is cold. It's a good and honest relationship. He's a good person and I think he thinks the same as me. We are all trying to turn this around for the better."