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Bartomeu: Koeman to Barcelona likely, Messi key to future

Koeman to Barcelona

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi arrives at the team’s hotel after being defeated during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match against Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Embattled Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is hanging his hat on Lionel Messi sticking around the Camp Nou as Ronald Koeman to Barcelona looks imminent.

The Dutch manager was tipped for the job soon after Quique Setien was fired on Monday. Sporting director Eric Abidal was sacked earlier Tuesday as Bartomeu tries to hold off an enraged Barca base with a presidential election scheduled for March.

Koeman, the Barca alumnus and ex-Everton and Southampton boss, will take the helm of La Liga’s legendary side “if nothing goes wrong,” Bartomeu said Tuesday.

[ MORE: Should Messi leave Barcelona? Will he? | How does Barca rebuild? ]

Bartomeu said that Koeman needs Lionel Messi, who has grown weary of the mess at Barcelona and has been linked to a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Man City.

The president also said that Barca has a “salary mess” and
named just seven veteran players who are off-limits to suitors: Messi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Nelson Semedo, Frenkie de Jong, Clement Lenglet, Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann. Presumably he’d include young prospects Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig, as well as incoming phenoms Pedri and Trincao.

“Koeman is saying that the pillar of his project is Leo Messi. He has a contract until 2021. I talk to him regularly and he knows there’s a project with a new coach here. We’re all disappointed at the moment, but we’re motivated by the new project. His father told me that there was a strong disappointment. This is correct, but since Sunday we have to think about the future. It’s about changing the mentality.”

Koeman underwent a heart procedure in May and led the Netherlands men’s national team to the 2019 UEFA Nations League final, starring Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.

He’ll work even closer with the latter if the Barca hiring is finalized for next season, where he’ll bid to win his first league title outside of the Netherlands. He’s won the Eredivisie twice with Ajax and once with PSV, collecting silverware in stops at Valencia, AZ Alkmaar, and Benfica.

A EURO winner with the Dutch as a player in 1988, he played six seasons with Barca from 1989-1995. Koeman won four La Liga crowns at Barca and was the UCL’s top scorer in 1993-94.