Koeman defends his first season in charge of Barcelona: 'You cannot ask for two trophies every year'

By Sports Desk May 22, 2021

Ronald Koeman believes his first campaign in charge of Barcelona can be considered a positive one and is confident he will still be in charge next season.

Barca beat Eibar 1-0 in their final LaLiga game of the campaign on Saturday to finish third, five points behind Real Madrid and seven adrift of champions Atletico Madrid.

The Catalans also exited the Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain at the last-16 stage, as well as losing to Athletic Bilbao in January's Supercopa de Espana.

Koeman's side did exact revenge by beating Athletic in last month's Copa del Rey final, though, and the Dutchman feels that trophy has salvaged this season.

"We have won many points in the league since the start of 2021 and won the cup in a brilliant way," Koeman said after the late win at Ipurua.

"We were unable to take advantage at the top of the table when we could have and we must learn from that.

"If you'd told me in August we'd win a trophy and be fighting for LaLiga with two or three games to go, I would sign for it. 

"Hopes were too high during the season – that's how I see it. That's why I think it's not a bad season, far from it. 

"It is not the best possible season, but you can't ask for a double every year, or from a team that is still forming."

The 79 points collected by Koeman is the fewest of any Barcelona boss in their first 38 league games since Frank Rijkaard (72) in 2003-04.

This is the first season Barca have finished outside the top two since 2007-08 and the only time they have gone successive seasons without finishing top since between 2006 and 2008.

But Koeman, who hinted at a lack of support from those above him at his pre-match news conference, insists he is still at the start of a long-term process in Catalonia despite reports suggesting he will be replaced in the close season.

"I don't think this is my last game," he said. "I have a contract and, I don't know... you talk a lot about it, but I'm calm. If the club want to change something, they must talk to me.

"From the moment I arrived, the only signing made was [Sergino] Dest, on the last day of the window. The squad is not at the level we want to have at Barca.

"Many at the club agree with this. We are trying to improve the squad. There are older players, with all due respect, who can still give a lot.

"The younger players need to gain experience and will become better. You cannot change the squad in one season alone."

While Barca were battling to a 1-0 win at already-relegated Eibar on Saturday, Atletico picked up the win they needed against Real Valladolid to pip Real Madrid to the title.

Atleti have led the way at the summit for 30 matchdays and Koeman says his side can have no complaints about missing out on top spot.

"Atletico deserved to win the championship," Koeman said. "They have been leaders for a while and have a very well-made squad.

"In general, they were a little better than Real Madrid and Barcelona. Congratulations to them, and nothing more."

Barca were heading for a goalless draw with Eibar before Antoine Griezmann fired in an impressive acrobatic winner nine minutes from time.

He has been directly involved in 25 goals across all competitions in 2021 – 15 goals and 10 assists – which is behind only team-mate Messi (37) and Villarreal's Gerard Moreno (30) among LaLiga players.

And like his head coach, Griezmann hopes Barca can strengthen their squad during the close season.

"We are hurting after missing out on the title. We have failed in some important games and have to rest and see where we can improve for next year," he told Movistar.

"I will continue working like I have for the last two years, and the president will make his moves."

Related items

  • Varane convinced Man Utd have squad for success despite recent struggles Varane convinced Man Utd have squad for success despite recent struggles

    Raphael Varane is convinced Manchester United have a squad that is set up for success despite some alarming recent results. 

    The last fortnight has seen United lose their Champions League opener to Young Boys and crash out of the EFL Cup against West Ham prior to Saturday's shock Premier League defeat at home to Aston Villa. 

    Expectations are high for United in 2021-22 after World Cup winner Varane joined from Real Madrid, while long-term target Jadon Sancho came in from Borussia Dortmund and Cristiano Ronaldo made his sensational return from Juventus. 

    The pressure is back on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer going into Wednesday's match with Villarreal, but Varane is not overly worried as he sees the ingredients required for success within the club. 

    "What I've been able to see is, with my team-mates, there's a lot of quality in our squad," Varane said as he sat alongside Solskjaer at the pre-match news conference. 

    "We've got huge potential, I'm convinced of it. 

    "We're working really hard, we're working well in training and improving all the time. Since the start of the season I think we're on a positive, upward curve. 

    "There is talent, there's experience there as well. We've got everything you need to have that belief that you can do well. 

    "I think that's a really key issue - we've got to believe in ourselves, be convinced that we can do it. We have got to be ambitious, believe in our own potential and then I think you can achieve things when you do that. 

    "Everything is there in the right place. Each time we go into a game, we go on that track and keep on that road of positivity, think on how we can improve in little details. 

    "We are on the right road." 

    Varane may have to hold a weakened United defence together when they face Villarreal at Old Trafford. 

    Fellow centre-back Harry Maguire is out for a few weeks with a calf injury, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka is suspended and Luke Shaw will be a late fitness check. 

    United face a tough test, having failed to win in their five previous meetings with Villarreal, scoring just once in those contests. 

    Villarreal are also unbeaten in their last 16 major European games (W12 D4) across the Europa League and Champions League, the longest current run of any side.  

    Ahead of the key Group F clash, Varane agreed the pressure of playing for United can be compared with what he experienced during his time at Madrid. 

    "Big clubs are always wanting a lot of their players, they expect a lot from the players," he said. 

    "There are a lot of demands. It is always hard to make comparisons but I believe that it's fairly similar in terms of the hopes and demands and expectations at big clubs. 

    "After a defeat or a draw, you know what it's like, it's always very negative when that happens.  

    "The key is to keep up good runs of results and be positive. That pressure you kind of live with it at big clubs - there is always a lot of expectation, for sure." 

  • Shakhtar Donetsk 0-0 Inter: Shot-shy Serie A champions held in Kiev Shakhtar Donetsk 0-0 Inter: Shot-shy Serie A champions held in Kiev

    Inter struggled as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Shakhtar Donetsk in Tuesday's Champions League clash.

    Nicolo Barella, who was denied by the crossbar, and Edin Dzeko spurned first-half opportunities, with Roberto De Zerbi's hosts also faltering with a multitude of chances at the Kiev Olympic Stadium.

    Manor Solomon and Tete both went close for Shakhtar, but with neither able to beat Samir Handanovic, the Ukrainian outfit settled for a creditable goalless draw against the Serie A champions.

    The teams are left on a point apiece in Group D as they suffer similarly timid starts and will need to make up early ground on Real Madrid and Sheriff, who meet later on Tuesday.

    The opening chance of the contest saw Solomon surge inside and thrash his effort past the left-hand post before Barella blasted an effort against the bar from long-range at the other end.

    Inter's carelessness in possession almost cost them, with Tete angling wide and Pedrinho smashing over either side of Lautaro Martinez's whipped effort failing to find the corner.

    Dzeko should have opened the scoring after ghosting onto Federico Dimarco's corner but wastefully prodded over from close range as the two sides continued to trade first-half chances.

    Milan Skriniar produced a vital last-ditch block after the break to deny Pedrinho following Dodo's cutback as the hosts boasted 66 per cent of the possession against their uncharacteristically sloppy opponents.

    Mykola Matyvenko then gifted Martinez the chance to break the deadlock, but the forward could only skew over the bar when one-on-one with Andriy Pyatov before Dodo selfishly lashed high of Inter's goal.

    Substitute Joaquin Correa offered Shakhtar a late scare as he drifted inside and curled towards the far corner, only for Pyatov to turn behind the post before denying Stefan de Vrij from the resulting corner as the match ended level.

  • Pollard and Pandya power Mumbai Indians past Punjab Kings Pollard and Pandya power Mumbai Indians past Punjab Kings

    Mumbai Indians put an end to a three-game losing streak to boost their play-off hopes in the Indian Premier League, beating Punjab Kings by six wickets. 

    Saurabh Tiwary made 45 and Hardik Pandya hit an unbeaten 40 as the reigning champions overhauled their opponents' score of 135-6 with an over to spare on Tuesday. 

    Looking to beat Mumbai for a third time in a row – a feat they had not managed since a run between the 2008-09 seasons – Punjab Kings simply failed to fire with the bat. They appeared to be making solid progress when their opening pair reached 36 without loss, only to then lose four wickets for the addition of just 12 runs.

    Kieron Pollard claimed two in one over, including dismissing fellow West Indian Chris Gayle for one. Captain KL Rahul followed soon after, hitting a slower bouncer straight to Jasprit Bumrah at short fine leg to depart for 21. 

    Aiden Markram led a recovery of sorts, finishing as the top scorer in the innings with 42. Deepak Hooda contributed 28 while Harpreet Brar ended up unbeaten on 14, though both struggled to up the run-rate in the closing overs. 

    Ravi Bishnoi provided hope for Punjab Kings by dismissing Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav with successive deliveries in the powerplay, but Pollard came out at number six in the order to rush his team to victory, making 15 not out from just seven balls.

     

    Bowlers help dethrone Kings 

    Mumbai Indians have lost 13 games against Punjab Kings in the history of the IPL, the joint-most for the franchise against any rival in the tournament. 

    However, they came out on top this time thanks mainly to their bowling attack. Krunal Pandya and Bumrah both claimed 1-24, while Nathan Coulter-Nile's four-over stint conceded just 19 runs. 

    All-round excellence in Abu Dhabi 

    Pollard may be better known for his big-hitting exploits with the bat, but the all-rounder has now reached the milestone of 300 wickets in Twenty20 cricket, meaning he becomes the first player to achieve both that feat and also score 10,000 runs in the format.

    He dismissed Gayle for just the second time in T20 action, tempting the left-hander to have a go at a slower delivery that only ended up in the safe hands of Hardik Pandya. 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.