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Koeman pledges to put Barca ‘back on top’

Ronald Koeman said he will “fight to put Barcelona back on top” after he was officially appointed Wednesday as the Spanish club’s new coach on a two-year deal.

“It’s a happy day. Everyone knows that Barca was for me. It’s my home. It’s a challenge and it won’t be easy, it will demand the best of me and I like that,” Koeman said at his unveiling at the Camp Nou.

“It was a dream and this dream became a reality. We’re going to fight to put Barca back on top.”

The 57-year-old Koeman, who had been in charge of the Netherlands since 2018, replaces Quique Setien, who was sacked after the Catalans were humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals on Friday.

He becomes the fifth Dutchman to coach Barcelona after Rinus Michels, Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard.

In his six seasons as a Barca player Koeman made 264 official appearances, scoring 88 goals as he shone in Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’, winning four consecutive La Liga titles between 1991-94. 

He also struck the winner in the 1992 European Cup final, the Catalan club’s first ever success in Europe’s top club competition.

“It was written, one day, Ronald Koeman was to coach Barca. The time has come,” said club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who made the initial announcement on Tuesday evening. 

Koeman added: “I’ve signed, I’m the coach of Barcelona and we’re going to work starting from now. Changes need to be made. The image from the other day is not the one we want to return to, not me, nor the players, directors, supporters, anyone.”

The Bayern capitulation was the first time Barca had conceded eight goals in a game since losing to Sevilla 8-0 in the 1946 Spanish Cup.

Koeman said he would stick to his preferred Dutch style of possession-based football, staying true to the club’s tradition, but rowed back on suggestions the likes of Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba could all be leaving the club.

“If decisions need to be made, we’ll take them,” said Koeman. “A player who is 31, 32 years old, he’s not finished. It’s all about the hunger he has to want to be at this club and give the maximum.”

The former Everton and Valencia boss also said he was confident of keeping Lionel Messi, with the 33-year-old Argentina star entering the final season of his contract. 

“He still has a year on his contract, he’s part of Barca. I don’t know if I need to convince him. He’s the best player in the world. And you want to have the best in your team, not against you,” said Koeman.

“As a manager, I love the idea of coaching Messi. He wins matches on his own. I will speak to him, but I hope he will stay here for several more years.”

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