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Koeman talks Messi, Dembele, Pedri ahead of Eibar clash



Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

After a much-needed one week break for the Christmas holidays, Barcelona are back in action against Eibar for La Liga matchday 16. They will be hoping to build on their fantastic performance against Real Valladolid where Ronald Koeman deployed a different setup.

As routine dictates, the Dutchman sat down to address the media ahead of the clash against Eibar, covering a plethora of topics, including Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele, Pedri, and his tactics for the game tomorrow (via Barça TV).

On Eibar and his strategy

“Tomorrow we face a very competitive rival, and we will have to be good, like in Valladolid. If we’re not good, the game will be very complicated,” Koeman says in praise of the team currently sitting 17th, a point above the relegation zone.

When asked about which formation he will deploy, and if he will continue with the three at the back system he used against Real Valladolid, Koeman says:

“3-5-2 system? You can talk about tactics but the most important thing for me is the energy and hard work of the players.”

On Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi’s long-awaited interview with LaSextaTV was released yesterday, where he talked about several things, but gave no hints about his future, saying that he is going to come to a conclusion on that front at the end of the season. Koeman was asked about it, to which he said:

“Messi’s interview? I think it’s perfect for him to do an interview to make his opinions known. The only thing we can do is get the most out of Leo in games and we’ll see what happens.”

He continues on the same topic, where he says, “I haven’t seen Messi’s interview, but I’m grateful that he spoke well about me. I’m trying to get the team going, it’s a year of transition and he’s a very important player.”

In the same interview, Messi spoke about his future after his playing career where he says that while he does not see himself as a coach, he may be more suited to the role of a sporting director.

“If Leo says he sees himself as a sporting director, that’s fine. I think that the best thing for Barcelona is that he continues at the club after his retirement.”

The topic then moves on to Leo’s involvement in the game for tomorrow. The Argentine left for a Christmas vacation immediately after the game against Valladolid, but was supposed to return for the Eibar outing. Alas, he seems to have picked up an ankle injury, and will not be a part of the game tomorrow, on which Koeman comments, saying:

“Messi in Argentina? Leo had some ankle discomfort. He couldn’t train or play tomorrow, that’s why we have given him two more days of vacation. He returns after the game with Eibar. The doctors say that a week without training will be good for Leo.”

On Dembele and Pedri

Ousmane Dembele picked up an injury to his hamstring against Cadiz, ruling him out for more than two weeks. He is reported to be a part of the squad list for tomorrow’s game, as Koeman clarifies, but there is a good chance that we might see the Frenchman start on the bench.

“Dembélé is recovered, he has trained with the group and in principle he will be called up for tomorrow.”

Pedri is the name on every Barcelona fan’s tongue right now. The 18-year-old has grown into one of the brightest name of the team, etching himself as a sure-short starter under Ronald Koeman. The former-Everton manager, in high praise of the youngster, says:

“Pedri is an example of how someone has to behave being very good at that age. He’s a boy from a very humble family and he knows exactly what to do. He has a great future.”

It was reported that Pedri, Riqui Puig, and Carles Aleña were all asked to leave out on loan by Koeman, before the season began. One of the three has, however, worked his way into the manager’s plans, who says:

“If it’s convenient for a young player to play half a year somewhere else, we will recommend it, but in the end it’s the players’ decision.”

On his and the club’s future

There have been several reports afloat suggesting that while Koeman is doing an adequate job under tough circumstances, he may not be here long enough, especially after the presidential elections in January.

“I’m in a place where I wanted to be for a long time and I’m very happy. This is also a complicated place… I hope that next year things will be better in terms of COVID-19 and the club.”

Finally, he concludes the press conference with a word about his talks with Ramon Planes, the assistant technical secretary at Barcelona.

“Planes and I are talking about things about the team that we can improve, players who don’t have many minutes…decisions must be made when a new President arrives.”

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