Koeman defends right to criticise Barca stars: 'If not, bring in another coach'

By Sports Desk January 23, 2021

Ronald Koeman declared he must be the wrong coach for Barcelona if he cannot be allowed to criticise the team for falling short of required standards.

The Dutchman is approaching six months in charge of the Camp Nou giants and he expressed frustration on Thursday when his team needed extra time to see off third-tier minnows Cornella in the Copa del Rey.

Miralem Pjanic and Ousmane Dembele missed penalties, and that factor particularly stuck in the craw for Koeman, a spot-kick expert in his playing days.

Koeman said his players needed to "have more responsibility", adding: "You can't miss two penalties as Barcelona players."

Those forthright comments have come in for plenty of scrutiny in Spain, and Koeman was asked about their impact on his players when he spoke on Saturday, ahead of a LaLiga trip to face Elche for which Lionel Messi is suspended.

"I am not going to lie. I say what I see," said the former Everton, Netherlands and Ajax boss.

"If you are a Barca player, you have to be demanding. I criticise them with respect. I'm not going for anyone, I want to help them, but if we play against Cornella with all due respect and we are not able to win in 90 minutes, I have to say what I see.

"If not, bring in another coach."

Koeman pointed to Barcelona's dismal overall penalty record this season, including the Supercopa semi-final shoot-out against Real Sociedad.

He said: "Every player can miss a penalty but to miss seven out of 12 is too much.

"The number one to take penalties is Leo [Messi] but if he's not there on the pitch to take it we must have other players to have the responsibility to score from the penalty spot.

"Yesterday and today we trained that to improve."

Sunday's clash with Elche will be a seventh successive game away from Camp Nou for Barcelona, including their Supercopa games last week.

Barcelona have struck on strong form in LaLiga and had moved up to third place heading into the weekend.

However, leaders Atletico Madrid stood 10 points ahead of them, with their rise driven to a large part by the goals of Luis Suarez, the striker Barcelona allowed to leave in the close season.

Suarez, third on Barcelona's all-time scorers list, has 11 goals in 14 league games for his new club.

Asked if Barcelona are missing Suarez, Koeman said: "I don't like answering that. You only ask me when he scores. He is a great player, I wish him the best of luck, but the decision has been made."

Koeman would love to bring new players to Barcelona, but the club's finances have been heavily hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Any possibility of a new club president launching his tenure with marquee recruits was scotched when elections, due to take place this Sunday, were delayed.

"My position is known: we lack people, but the economic situation of the club is an influence," Koeman said. "I think we all think the same. If no one arrives, I accept it and we continue the same, but if we want more we must sign."

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    Lionel Messi was not among the veteran Barcelona stars Ronald Koeman called on to step up prior to Wednesday's win against Elche, the coach insists.

    Barca headed into the match at Camp Nou having endured consecutive disappointing results in their previous two games, losing 4-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and then conceding a late equaliser to Cadiz in a 1-1 draw.

    While Koeman has come to rely heavily on teenagers Pedri and Francisco Trincao this season, it was the more experienced players he demanded more from in his pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

    That would presumably include Messi, the team's 33-year-old captain, but Koeman explained after overseeing a 3-0 victory that he had not been referring to his talisman.

    Messi moved up a gear anyway, scoring with two of his three shots, creating a further chance and playing a role in the build-up to Jordi Alba's clinching goal.

    The Barca number 10 certainly could not be questioned after increasing his 2021 tally to 13 goals in all competitions, the most of any player in Europe's 'top five' leagues.

    "When I talk about veterans, I don't mean him," Koeman said. "Leo continues to score many goals.

    "Others have to make a difference, not Messi. He continues to score, as he has shown today."

    Messi was not immediately joined in lifting Barca's level as Trincao attempted the hosts' only two shots in the first half, their lowest tally in the opening 45 minutes of a home game this season.

    Koeman had no issue then with Messi making his frustration clear during a tetchy first period.

    "Everyone has seen that we lacked intensity and rhythm of the ball, especially," the coach explained. "It is good that Messi, as captain, asks for intensity."

    Seven attempts followed after the interval, with all three of those on target hitting the net, while Koeman ended an eight-match run without a clean sheet.

    "It was good," Koeman said. "The lack of rhythm was not due to a lack of attitude.

    "Sometimes the opposition make things not go the way you want. We are human. The team has shown personality and desire."

    Still third but now within five points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, Koeman was hopeful the mood in the Blaugrana camp would improve with the much-needed victory.

    "Surely, having won today, tomorrow will be different," he said. "It is normal [to be upset] if you drop two points against Cadiz when it was time to cut back those at the top.

    "You have to close this bad feeling with good games and good results."

  • Barcelona 3-0 Elche: Messi's second-half special cuts gap to Atletico Barcelona 3-0 Elche: Messi's second-half special cuts gap to Atletico

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    Ronald Koeman's men had missed a chance to take advantage of Atletico's slip-up against Levante at the weekend when they were held at home by struggling Cadiz.

    They were not at their best on Wednesday in a clash with another relegation-threatened side in Elche, but Messi's delightful double and a stylish Jordi Alba effort secured a crucial win.

    Barca remain third in the table having played a game more than Atletico, whose lead over second-placed Real Madrid is just three points.

    Francisco Trincao forced Edgar Badia into a close-range save in the second minute and, after Lucas Boye had spurned a gilt-edged chance at the other end, the Portugal international was denied a stunning goal by the Elche goalkeeper.

    Trincao jinked past two Elche defenders after latching on to a pass from Messi, only to see Badia produce a fine diving save with his left hand.

    Badia was required again to keep out Frenkie de Jong's header from a floated Messi free-kick, the frustration clear among Koeman and his players as parity was preserved.

    That parity lasted just three minutes into the second half, Messi's shot squirming into the net despite Badia getting a hand to it following a superb flicked return pass from Martin Braithwaite.

    Messi's second was similarly aesthetically pleasing, De Jong finding him at the end of the slaloming run before the Argentine delicately dinked the ball over Badia.

    And the game was put beyond any doubt in the 73rd minute when Braithwaite nodded Messi's excellent cross-field ball into the path of Alba to dispatch with an acrobatic effort.

    The scoreline could have been made more emphatic late on, but substitute Antoine Griezmann cracked the crossbar from Sergino Dest's low cross.

  • Bayern star Musiala explains choosing Germany over England at international level Bayern star Musiala explains choosing Germany over England at international level

    Bayern Munich rising star Jamal Musiala has chosen to play for Germany instead of England at international level.

    The 17-year-old could make his senior debut as early as next month, with Germany head coach Joachim Low expected to name a large squad for their three World Cup qualifiers against Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia.

    Musiala was born in Germany but moved to England when he was seven when his mother began a degree at Southampton University. He spent eight years in Chelsea's academy and played at youth level for England and Germany before returning to Bayern in 2019.

    The 17-year-old has since broken into Hansi Flick's first-team plans and has already made 25 appearances in all competitions this season, mostly as a substitute. He scored in Bayern's 4-1 Champions League last-16 first-leg win over Lazio on Tuesday to become the youngest English player to score in the competition and the second-youngest of any nationality to get a goal in the knockout phase.

    Speaking to The Athletic about his deliberations over his international future, Musiala said: "I've thought about this question a lot. What is best for my future? Where do I have more chances to play?

    "In the end, I just listened to the feeling that over a long period of time kept telling me that it was the right decision to play for Germany, the land I was born in. Still, it wasn't an easy decision for me.

    "England is home for me. It is difficult to find words for what England means for me because I have so many memories connected to very positive emotions.

    "They [Chelsea and England's Football Association] are family for me, and I am sure that I remain a member of the family, even though I'm no longer there. I wouldn't be where I am right now without the trust and support of Chelsea and the FA, throughout the hard times and fun times. It wasn't always easy, but they made me the player I am now."

    Low, who met with Musiala in recent weeks along with national team director Oliver Bierhoff, said of the news: "Obviously, we cannot give him any guarantees at the moment. That wouldn't be right.

    "I think we will call him up in March because we will have a bigger squad than usual due to having three games in quick succession. We will be able to get to know one another better during this time.

    "I'm pleased that Jamal has decided to play for Germany in the future. I see a lot of potential in him."

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