Tomorrow, nine of ten games in the Spanish league will kick off at 18:00 CET, with the immediate future of the league hanging in the balance. Either Real Madrid will retain the throne, or Atletico Madrid will come out victorious for the first time since 2013/14. Either way, Barcelona and Ronald Koeman are out of this race, and the last gameweek for them is pretty much inconsequential.
Ahead of the trip against Eibar, Koeman took part in his routinely pre-game presser, which kicked off with him talking about the relevance of the final matchday: “It’s the last game of the season, and we are going to do our best to win. It’s true that we do not have anything to play for, but it’s the last game and I would like to win it.”
Almost instantly, the topic shifted towards his future, to which he replied, “I don’t know if I will continue, really. I spoke with the President two weeks ago and we agreed to talk at the end of the season. We will see because I have always said that I want to continue and fulfill my contract.”
Koeman reiterated what he has been saying for the past few weeks, claiming the decision was not in his hands, but the president’s: “The president has the last word about me. We will talk and it will be seen. Last month I think that the coach, the players should be respected more… They are sad by what has appeared in the press. They do not deserve this treatment.”
“Changes will be made to win things next season. I have stood up for the club, I have almost been the only spokesperson throughout the season and that should be known,” he continued.
Reports have claimed that Koeman’s sacking would cost the club €7.5 million, and when asked if he would ask for that fee or waive it off, he said, “Charging the final year of my contract if I can’t continue? I can’t answer that. You know I love this club. Until I speak with the President I will not be able to answer about my thoughts.”
He kept repeating, emotionally, that he loved Barcelona: “If the club thinks someone else has to lead the team next season, we’ll talk about it. I love Barça a lot.”
Barcelona suffered a lot of hiccups along the season, with the leak of Lionel Messi’s contract, the injuries, the holes in the team, etc. According to Koeman, all things considered, it was not as bad everyone is making it out to be, “We have not been at our level in some of the last games, but in general, with all the problems that there were, this season has not been bad.”
The Dutchman singled out a few players, who had been playing week in, week out, without rest: “There are 3-4 players who have made a tremendous effort in every way. Messi, Pedri and De Jong have played many games.”
Even though he may not continue, Koeman continues to be an utmost professional, communicating his responsibilities, like potential signings with the board: “Next season? We have talked about signings, how to improve the squad… From the first day I have done these tasks and I have spoken with Ramon Planes and Mateu Alemany about things for the next season. It’s my I work until the last day.”
Koeman seemed very conscious during this presser, talking about where he has gone wrong, saying, “Of course I have done self-criticism. I’m responsible for the substitutions, for the young players that we’ve given opportunities, for the bad moments…I can be blamed. I’m self-critical for the last weeks but we have had everything against us all year.”
When asked about Messi’s continuity, he said, “Barça with Messi has much more future than Barça without Messi.”
He talked about the holes in the squad, suggesting that there need to be urgent changes needed next season, “Atlético Madrid, for example, have a better squad. I’ve spoken with Planes and Alemany about what we can improve. We have to build a team that can fight for all the big titles.”
Koeman has always said that his biggest professional dream after retiring was to coach Barcelona, which came true this season: “I am very happy to be here and to be part of this great club. My dream was to coach Barça. Despite the high pressure, I accepted it. In this country the coach is criticized much more, but I can’t change it.”
Barcelona players have not been shielded from criticism either. The likes of Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann have been constantly brought under scrutiny. Koeman said that it has especially daunting in the last week: “It’s a difficult week for the players because of the criticism. Respect for the players is important. What has happened in recent days is not easy for them. They have done a lot for this club and the club has done a lot for them. We have to talk, but they’ve done a lot.”