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Koeman talks Messi, Neymar, Umtiti ahead of Cadiz clash



Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP

Barcelona will travel to the Estadio Ramon de Carranza to lock horns with Cadiz in gameweek 12 of La Liga, hoping to build on their spectacular goalscoring form which has dominated headlines in the past week.

As routine dictated, the squad list announcement was followed by Ronald Koeman’s appearance in front of the room full of journalists for the pre-game presser. The main talking points of the conference were Lionel Messi, his reunion with Neymar, Martin Braithwaite’s run of form, Samuel Umtiti’s return, among other things.

On Messi

When asked about Messi’s contract, and if he knows about his decision for the near future, Koeman responded, “We know Leo’s situation. There’s only one person who can decide his future and that is Leo. I’m not interested in comments from the outside, but rather those from inside the club. We can’t control the outsiders, but from the inside it’s different.”

He was also asked to comment on the club interim President Carlos Tusquets’ words on Messi where he said he would have sold him to stabilise the finances, to which Koeman replied, “Tusquets’ opinion about Messi is not my thing, Leo has a contract and we want him here.”

Furthermore, the media questioned him on the rumours of his reunion with Neymar heating up. Koeman said, “Messi and Neymar reunion in Paris or in Barcelona? As a club, we have to try to bring all the best players together.”

On Dembele

Ousmane Dembele has been enjoying a rather good run of form as of late, more specifically under Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman commented on this with a direct response, “Dembélé? The first thing that has changed is that he has improved physically. In order for a player to perform well, he must be in a good shape. Little by little, he gains confidence. You notice he’s happy recently.”

He followed it up with a simple, “I’m satisfied with Dembélé’s performances.”

On Umtiti & Araujo

Ronald Araujo returned to the squad list after a month of injury concern, one he picked up against Juventus. Reporters were curious to know updates on the Uruguayan, and Koeman obliged, “Araújo has injured for a couple of weeks, and I will decide when is the right time for him to play. There are several games coming up.”

The topic shifted to Samuel Umtiti, who is edging closer to a return: “Umtiti is very close. He started, and played 60 minutes with the B team, without any problem. I don’t know when, but soon he will be on the list.”

On Griezmann & Braithwaite

Antoine Griezmann and Martin Braithwaite are clearly benefitting off one another, and are getting oh-so-close to cementing their spot in the starting lineup. Koeman spoke about the World Cup winner’s form, saying, “Griezmann is a great player, who can play in various positions. He doesn’t need to depend on the rest of the forwards, but on himself, on his mentality. He has tried to change things.”

Braithwaite has scored four goals, assisted one, and won two penalties in his last three games for Barcelona, and a lot of credit goes to Koeman, who said, “Braithwaite always tries to stretch the pitch, he has depth, and he’s helping the team because the others, from behind, take advantage of the space he generates thanks to his work. On top of that, he’s effective within the area.”

On the unfolding La Liga season

Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad seem to be in a two-horse tussle for the Liga crown right now, and Koeman spoke about the Madrid outfit, saying, “At the moment, I think Atlético Madrid are a strong team, and they concede very little. But it’s a long season in which anything can happen.”

He added to that by saying, “We can’t afford to lose more points in La Liga. We have to win every game left in 2020.”

He concluded that the press conference with a question about the possibility of fans returning to stadiums for La Liga matches: “All countries are looking for the fans to return, but everyone has to look at it in terms of health. We are not doctors, but hopefully we will soon have spectators again. Having said that, there is no reason to force it because health is the most important thing.”

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