Ronald Koeman Plays Down Barcelona Managerial Rumours, Confirms Netherlands Stay

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2019

LAGOS, PORTUGAL - JUNE 1: coach Ronald Koeman of Holland  during the   Training Holland at the Cascade resort on June 1, 2019 in Lagos Portugal (Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Ronald Koeman isn't ready to leave his role as Netherlands manager, despite rumours linking him with former club Barcelona.

Koeman, who won the European Cup as a Barca player in 1992, has been linked with replacing Ernesto Valverde in the Camp Nou dugout. However, the 56-year-old told NOS (h/t Goal's Tom Storer): "I conformed myself to the KNVB. If you've done only one year and there's one year left to the European Championships, it's not the right moment. As far as I'm concerned, we can just put this speculation behind us."

While his ties to the Blaugrana are strong, Koeman isn't going to be moved from his international commitments: "No matter what I say, there will always be people who say, 'If they (Barcelona) offer him a job, he will go anyway.' The media will run those stories and I understand that. I know how I agreed this with the KNVB and for me, that's enough."

It's an emphatic rejection of the rumours, something Koeman had been reticent to express recently:

Goal @goal

Ronald Koeman was asked about those Barcelona rumours: "I think this [press conference] is about the Dutch national team, so I would like to leave it at that." That's not a 'no', then 👀 https://t.co/K9v8MhaNl8

Koeman's name was mentioned as one of four candidates Barca are considering to replace Valverde this summer. The Dutchman is reportedly on a list with Belgium boss Roberto Martinez, former Juventus chief Massimiliano Allegri and Arsenal head coach Unai Emery, per Mundo Deportivo (h/t Owen Fulda of the Daily Star).

Doubts have emerged about Valverde's position following several high-profile setbacks this season. Barcelona blew a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 on aggregate to eventual winners Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League semi-final.

While Valverde's men had retained the title in La Liga, they couldn't secure another double after slipping to a 2-1 defeat against Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Despite his denials, Koeman represents an interesting prospect to replace Valverde. His appointment would continue Barca's preference for trusting former players with the reins, with Luis Enrique and Pep Guardiola enjoying successful spells prior to Valverde.

Guardiola was a teammate of Koeman's in Barcelona's "Dream Team" managed by Johan Cruyff. Four-straight league titles and Europe's top prize were secured by that celebrated group.

Koeman enjoyed a decorated playing career with Barca.
Koeman enjoyed a decorated playing career with Barca.VI-Images/Getty Images

Koeman was a crucial player as a cultured sweeper. The teams he's managed have been less enterprising, even if Koeman has accrued invaluable experience during stops with Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia and Southampton.

He's also produced fine work at international level. Koeman has restored pride following the Netherlands' failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Young stars such as Ajax pair Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jongwho will soon join Barcelonahave become key figures on Koeman's watch. A new-look squad will contest the semi-final of the UEFA Nations League against England on Thursday.

Koeman is right to stay with the national team, knowing he is building a powerful group at a time when notable players are maturing into proven winners. He celebrated centre-back Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy with Liverpool on Saturday.

Ronald Koeman @RonaldKoeman

What an achievement! Congratulations ⁦@VirgilvDijk⁩ and ⁦@GWijnaldum⁩ on winning the Champions League! https://t.co/rXqeu47bah

Koeman's pragmatic managerial style may not suit Barca, a club expected to win while playing expansive, attractive football. Yet his work on the international stage is far from finished and he clearly sees it as a job worth continuing.