Ronald Koeman's Job Safe Despite Early Struggles, Barcelona President Says

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVOctober 2, 2021

LISBON, PORTUGAL - SEPTEMBER 29: Coach Ronald Koeman of FC Barcelona  during the UEFA Champions League  match between Benfica v FC Barcelona at the Estadio da Luz on September 29, 2021 in Lisbon Portugal (Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said Saturday there are no imminent plans to replace manager Ronald Koeman despite the club's lackluster start to the 2021-22 season.

Laporta told reporters Koeman "deserves a certain amount of confidence for many reasons," and the club remains hopeful the results will improve as the term moves forward:

"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.
"We can all understand the reactions because we are not getting results, but I ask the supporters to have some confidence in the coach, he deserves it, and to have faith in this team because when everyone is available they will be even more competitive."

Barcelona entered Saturday seventh in the La Liga table with three wins and three draws from the season's first six fixtures. It also opened the Champions League campaign with back-to-back 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica.

Wednesday's lopsided UCL defeat against the Portuguese side raised questions about whether Barca would soon sack Koeman, who was hired in August 2020.

The rumors led the 58-year-old Netherlands native to grow frustrated during his pre-match press conference Friday ahead of Saturday's visit to Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid. He was asked questions typically reserved for a manager who has left a club, such as his favorite moments from his tenure.

"The best moment? When I signed to become Barca coach. The worst moment? When Lionel Messi left," Koeman said.

The former Barcelona defender added he was "fed up" with having to defend himself.

ESPN's Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens reported the Blaugrana had kept Koeman in charge of the coaching staff due to a "lack of credible alternatives available," though the club had "stepped up their search for a replacement" after the Benfica loss.

Laporta said Saturday he's spoken with the club's manager amid the speculation about his future and said any rumors about issues between them are overblown.

"I've spoken with him and drawn my own conclusions," he said. "I value the moment he took over the club. We've 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."

Despite Laporta's comments, it wouldn't be a surprise if rumors about Koeman's future persist if Barca can't secure a positive result against Atletico on Saturday since the club heads into a two-week international break following the match.