Ronald Koeman admits it was a relief to see speculation over his future as Barcelona head coach ended this week.

On Thursday, Barca president Joan Laporta confirmed Koeman would remain in charge of the first team for the 2021-22 season.

A hero as a player at Camp Nou, Koeman could only secure third place in LaLiga last season as Atletico Madrid won the title, his Copa del Rey success doing little to quieten the doubters.

Laporta had seemed keen to appoint a replacement before next season, with former club captain Xavi reportedly among the favourites for the role, but he announced his support for Koeman following a "reflection period".

Koeman said the discussions and doubts over his position had been "intense", but that he was now focused on steering Barca back towards major trophies.

"I am relieved to say my players and staff can fully focus on the new season now," he said via his Twitter account.

"The last few weeks have been intense, but I am glad that president Joan Laporta gave his support to me and calm has been restored.

"The focus of everyone in the club is the same: building a winning Barca and achieving success!"

Barca allowed the title to slip from their reach after dragging themselves back into contention following a poor start to the season.

They failed to finish in the top two and went two seasons running without winning the title for the first time since 2008.

Their tally of 79 points was their lowest total since the same year, when they managed 67. Indeed, the last coach to earn 76 or fewer points in his first 38 games with the club was Frank Rijkaard in 2003-04 (72 – W21 D9 L8).

Ronald Koeman will remain as Barcelona head coach for the 2021-22 season, president Joan Laporta confirmed on Thursday.

Dutchman Koeman – a legend in his playing days at Camp Nou – guided Barca to a third-placed finish in LaLiga last term, meaning they finished outside of the top two for the first time since 2007-08, though the Blaugrana did succeed in winning the Copa del Rey.

They were inspired by Lionel Messi, who scored 30 league goals to win an eighth Pichichi trophy, though the 33-year-old is also the subject of speculation over his next move, with his contract at Barca coming to an end.

Koeman was appointed by Josep Maria Bartomeu last year, after Quique Setien's ill-fated tenure, with the former Netherlands coach signing a two-year contract.

Laporta succeeded Bartomeu in March, taking charge at Camp Nou for a second spell, and reports had suggested he was keen to install his own choice as coach.

On Thursday, however, he confirmed the 58-year-old will remain in charge for at least another year.

"After this reflection period, we have agreed that we will continue the current contract of Ronald Koeman," Laporta told a media conference.

 

"We're very satisfied with the conversations we have had. They were frank conversations and the coach's behaviour was impeccable.

"We found solutions to any slight differences. We have thought about what is best for Barcelona and we're all happy to make this announcement."

Asked if he would have kept Koeman on if there had not been a year left on his contract, Laporta said: "The year remaining that he had was an independent thing and didn't condition us.

"For now, the previous contract continues. We'll have talks about everything else further down the line.

"He already made an effort last season and we haven't contemplated [a pay cut] this time. He understands the club's situation."

After a poor start to the congested season, Barca did manage to drag themselves into title contention, only to slip up towards the end of the campaign.

Their tally of 79 points is their lowest total since 2007-08, when they managed 67. Indeed, the last coach to earn 76 or fewer points in his first 38 games with the club was Frank Rijkaard in 2003-04 (72 - W21 D9 L8).

With Atletico Madrid triumphing this year and Real Madrid winning LaLiga in 2019-20, it meant Barca have failed to win the title in two successive seasons for the first time since 2008.

Uncertainty over Koeman's future has not stopped Barca acting swiftly in the transfer market, albeit mostly acquiring players who were available on free transfers.

Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia have arrived following the expiration of their contracts at Premier League champions Manchester City, while Barca also exercised their option to bring Emerson back to the club following two seasons at Real Betis.

Ronald Koeman will remain as Barcelona head coach for the 2021-22 season, president Joan Laporta confirmed on Thursday.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has declared Lionel Messi wants to stay at Camp Nou as talks over a new contract continue.

The Argentine forward wanted to leave last August before agreeing to stay and reconsider at the end of his existing deal, which expires on June 30.

The captain and record scorer's public show of discontent at Barcelona's leadership led to links with the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, who hoped to sign him on a free transfer.

However, the election of a new president in Laporta appears to have salvaged the 33-year-old's relationship with the club where he has spent the entirety of his professional career.

Amid reports a two-year contract extension is close to being agreed, Laporta has offered his most optimistic update yet.

He said: "Our talks with the agents of Leo Messi are going well. We hope they continue to progress. It's not done... but we know Leo wants to stay."

Barcelona's summer business has begun with two free transfer signings in the form of Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, both of whom have arrived from Manchester City.

They are expected to be joined by Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay, whose respective contracts at Liverpool and Lyon are also up this summer.

This approach owes much to the club's latest financial results, which showed overall debt of almost €1.2billion.

However, Laporta insists Barca will still be able to renew Messi's deal, even as they look to make savings elsewhere.

He said: "The renewal of Messi does not depend on the audit. We are in talks with the agents of Leo and they are going well.

"We hope they continue to progress. What happens with Leo is not a matter of money, but a matter of the future and sports.

"He wants to continue with this idea because he wants a team that can help him win leagues, Champions [League] and titles in the short-term."

Sergio Aguero signed on the dotted line at Barcelona but refused to discuss the possibility of Pep Guardiola following him from Manchester City to Camp Nou.

Barcelona are in a state of upheaval amid doubts over Ronald Koeman's future, with club president Joan Laporta describing the Dutchman as "a coach that we did not ask for" on Monday.

Laporta has not excluded the possibility of Koeman staying in charge for the second year of his contract, but it appears the club are also looking at alternative options to come in and take charge.

Aguero is also thought of as a potential upgrade on the talent Barcelona have as striking options, besides Lionel Messi, having become Manchester City's record goalscorer during a highly successful decade in England.

The new recruit also said he thought Messi would be staying at Barcelona, continuing their partnership from the Argentina national team.

However, asked about the possibility of Barcelona re-hiring Guardiola, who coached the Blaugrana from 2008 to 2012, Aguero stayed well clear.

He said: "I don't have the right to talk about that. He has a contract with City and I'm not the one who has to talk about the coach."

The 'one' would be Laporta, the president who was elected in March. His predecessor, Josep Maria Bartomeu, appointed Koeman.

Asked about the latest situation with Koeman, during what was Aguero's presentation news conference, Laporta said: "I already said that we have started a period of reflection, for the reasons I said.

"As he was a coach that we did not ask for, we needed that period. There are contacts, I have already said that he is a coach with a current contract and our will is to respect it as long as this period of reflection occurs."

Koeman almost led Barcelona to a domestic double in 2020-21, but a dip in league form over the closing weeks of the season meant their charge since the turn of the year was only good enough for third place in LaLiga. They won the Copa del Rey, but that may not be enough to save him.

Laporta was also questioned about whether Aguero had been brought in to please captain Messi, who has yet to sign a new contract with his current deal to expire at the end of June.

The president replied, according to Mundo Deportivo: "The signing of Aguero is because he is a desired player and an exceptional player. It is the first of a series of signings that you will get to know. Naturally, we want Messi to continue."

The news conference was perhaps a sign of what Aguero can expect at Barcelona, at least in the short term. Messi signing a new deal would bring a sense of calm to proceedings, as would clarity on the coaching situation.

Aguero is looking forward to playing with his compatriot on a week-by-week basis.

He said the prime motivation to join his new club was: "To be at Barca, where the best player in the world is.

"If he [Messi] continues here, which I think he will, we will try to do our best, as we have always done, in the national team."

Laporta could announce a new signing every day of this week – and he might yet, with Eric Garcia, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum heavily linked – but the coaching situation also needs to be a priority.

Aguero steered away from recommending Guardiola's appointment, but spoke of his admiration for the City coach.

"We all know that Pep, since he arrived at City, has proposed a different football," Aguero said. "He proposes to keep the ball all the time and to keep that is important. It made me and the whole team better."

Injuries and a COVID-19 absence caused Aguero to miss chunks of the 2020-21 season, but he came through a medical on Monday and said his left knee, which was operated on last June, was "perfectly fine".

Messi has benefited from some outstanding forwards lining up alongside him during his Barcelona career, notably David Villa, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

Barcelona averaged 2.7 goals per game when Villa and Messi played together, and it was the same when Neymar played with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, dipping to 2.6 when Messi and Suarez featured in the same side.

There are overlaps to bear in mind when looking at those figures, but not in the case of Villa who left Barca in July 2013, with Neymar arriving effectively as his replacement. Suarez then came in a year later from Liverpool.

Neymar departed for Paris Saint-Germain in August 2017, while Suarez was sold to Atletico Madrid last year.

Barcelona's win percentage stood at 74.1 per cent when Neymar and Messi played in the same team, 73.6 per cent with Villa and 73.2 per cent with Suarez.

Yet Barca's points per game were curiously slightly lower at 2.3 when Messi played with Neymar compared to when Suarez and Villa were in the team alongside the little maestro (2.4).

It was a sign of the times that Barcelona, led by Guardiola for two of Villa's three seasons, averaged 71.8 per cent possession while the Spain striker was at Camp Nou. When Messi and Neymar played together that figure was 67.2 per cent and when Messi and Suarez teamed up it was 65.3 per cent.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar frequently played in the same side, forming the feared 'MSN' forward line.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has insisted he is in good health and told his followers "don't believe anything you hear" in a social media post.

Club president Joan Laporta said in a news conference earlier on Friday that Koeman had given the club "a scare" this week.

It came after the 58-year-old, who had a heart procedure last year, visited hospital, with conflicting reports over whether the trip was routine or related to anxiety.

Koeman attempted to clarify the situation on Twitter, writing: "Don't believe anything you hear. I am healthy, that's all that matters in life!"

The comments come at an uncertain time for Koeman, who has one year left on his contract at Camp Nou but is under pressure to keep his job.

Laporta has held initial talks with the Dutchman and his agent and is set to hold a further round of discussions in the near future after the head coach finished his first campaign in charge.

The president is said to have asked him to wait for a verdict while he looked at alternative options to fill the role.

Laporta faced questions at a news conference after speculation he would look to pursue Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola after the Champions League final.

Former Barca player Xavi, currently in charge of Al Sadd in Qatar, has also been heavily linked with the job.

"Ronald has a contract and that gives him peace of mind that he should not be rushed into a decision," Laporta said. "We spoke calmly with him. 

"He had an episode that took him to hospital and he routinely gets checked up. He gave us a scare, especially thinking that a year ago he had a heart attack. I told him to take it easy.

"We spoke with respect. We will sit down with Ronald next week and we will decide after outlining all the aspects.

"Out of respect we owe Koeman, he has a current contract and don't rule it out [that he stays]. We are talking.

"We [the new board] arrived halfway through the season and said we would give our evaluation of the coach at the end of the season and communicate our decisions then.

"We've always worked with the maximum respect for Ronald Koeman. Of course, the admiration we have for him as the player who won us the European Cup at Wembley, and he still has a contract in place.

"At the end of the season we will evaluate his time here and make decisions accordingly. We spoke to Koeman and will continue to do so when making important decisions."

Adding to the complexity of the situation, Koeman's agent Rob Jansen - via his own Twitter account and that of agency Wasserman - appeared to hit out at Laporta.

"Imagine: I want to marry you, but I have doubts," he posted. "Give me two weeks to find a better partner. If I can't find the right person, we will get married anyway!"

A statement from Wasserman added: "The words of FC Barcelona's president Joan Laporta during a press conference today about Ronald Koeman's anxiety attack are overdone.

"Ronald has been to the hospital for blood pressure checks, a routine check for people with his medical history. We regret the way it got into the media. Ronald is fine, there is nothing to worry about."

Joan Laporta says he is eager to see Pep Guardiola lift the Champions League trophy amid reports the Manchester City boss is his top target to coach Barcelona.

It was suggested this week that Barca president Laporta will make an audacious attempt to persuade Guardiola to return to Camp Nou after the Champions League final.

Laporta reportedly wishes to speak to Guardiola - who is under contract with City until 2023 after signing a new deal last year - before determining his next move with under-pressure incumbent Ronald Koeman.

Guardiola enjoyed a hugely successful spell at the Barca helm between 2008 and 2012, winning the Spanish title for three successive seasons, as well as the Champions League twice.

"If you want to ask me about Pep, I wish that he wins the Champions League with City on Saturday," Laporta said on Friday.

"I am not here to talk about my dreams. I focus on realities and like to make my dreams come true, not talk about them.

"May he win the Champions League with Barca and City; I think it will be wonderful for him and also for all of us who love him.

"That is the only thing in my head when we talk about Guardiola. I can't wait to watch the final and I hope Pep can win it because he is a good friend of mine."

It remains to be seen whether Koeman will be around to continue with the new Barca project.

The Dutchman, who has one year left on his contract, is set to hold a fresh round of talks with Laporta in the near future after completing his first campaign in charge.

Koeman and his agent met with Laporta this week for an initial conversation and the president asked him to wait for a verdict while he looked at alternative options.

Former Barca player Xavi, currently in charge of Al Sadd in Qatar, has also been heavily linked with the job.

"Xavi will be a great coach and he is a friend but we have nothing specific," said Laporta.

"These are names that sound good - everyone wants them to come, but we are in a different situation now than when we bet on [Frank] Rijkaard or Guardiola, plus we don't want to involve Ronald in more stories.

"Out of respect we owe Koeman, he has a current contract and don't rule it out [that he stays]. We are talking.

"There are no transitional seasons at Barca. We [the new board] arrived halfway through the season and said we would give our evaluation of the coach at the end of the season and communicate our decisions then.

"We've always worked with the maximum respect for Ronald Koeman. Of course, the admiration we have for him as the player who won us the European Cup at Wembley, and he still has a contract in place.

"At the end of the season we will evaluate his time here and make decisions accordingly. We spoke to Koeman and will continue to do so when making important decisions."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta revealed contract talks with Lionel Messi are going well as he prepares to meet again with Ronald Koeman to decide the head coach's future.

Messi's current deal is set to expire at the end of June but the Spanish club are in negotiations to make sure their talisman remains at Camp Nou.

Having pushed to leave Barca a year ago, the 33-year-old scored 30 goals in 35 LaLiga appearances to finish as the competition's leading scorer, though Barca finished behind both champions Atletico Madrid and rivals Real Madrid in the table.

Laporta provided an update on Messi's situation at a lengthy news conference on Friday that covered a number of topics, during which he confirmed new signings are imminent.

"Messi's new contract is going well, but it has not been done yet," Laporta announced.

"We are working hard, all the executives that we have involved here are working hard to give him a good proposal. We are going to give him a proposal that is within our means and we hope that it will be accepted by the player.

"I see our relationship as very good. Messi loves Barca. We know that he is a man and a player conditioned by his incredible talent.

"Of course, we all want him to continue, and we hope that he will stay with Barca."

Barca are expected to sign defender Eric Garcia and forward Sergio Aguero in the transfer window, with both players soon to be out of contract at Manchester City.

"Our ambition is to improve the current squad and we are working on that very hard," Laporta said.

"Next week, we will talk about new arrivals for the first team. You will see the result of some of the work we have been doing.

"I understand that people want us to work in a rhythm that is faster, but we believe in working step by step, little by little and doing things right. We need to make two situations compatible, when I'm talking about the liquidation of one project and the beginning of a new one."

It remains to be seen whether Koeman will be around to continue with the new Barca project; the Dutchman is set to hold a fresh round of talks with Laporta in the near future after completing his first campaign in charge. Koeman and his agent met with Laporta this week for an initial conversation.

"There are no transitional seasons at Barca," Laporta said. "We [the new board] arrived halfway through the season and said we would give our evaluation of the coach at the end of the season and communicate our decisions then.

"We've always worked with the maximum respect for Ronald Koeman. Of course, the admiration we have for him as the player who won us the European Cup at Wembley, and he still has a contract in place.

"At the end of the season we will evaluate his time here and make decisions accordingly. We spoke to Koeman and will continue to do so when making important decisions."

Laporta was also questioned about links to Xavi and Pep Guardiola, two legendary names at the club who have been rumoured to be potential replacements for Koeman.

“Out of respect we owe Koeman, he has a current contract and don't rule it out [that he stays]," Laporta said. "We are talking."

Ronald Koeman met with Barcelona president Joan Laporta on Tuesday evening as reports claimed the future of the head coach remained unresolved.

Dutchman Koeman guided Barca to a third-placed finish in LaLiga this term, meaning they finished outside of the top two for the first time since 2007-08, though the Blaugrana did succeed in winning the Copa del Rey.

They were inspired by Lionel Messi, who scored 30 league goals to win an eighth Pichichi trophy, though the 33-year-old is also the subject of speculation over his next move, with his contract at Barca up next month.

Laporta succeeded previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu in March, taking charge at Camp Nou for a second spell.

Koeman was appointed by Bartomeu last year, after Quique Setien's ill-fated tenure, with the former Netherlands coach signing a two-year contract.

Reports have suggested that Laporta is keen to install his own man in the hot-seat, and on Tuesday he met with Koeman and the Barca legend's agent.

No firm decision was made, according to reports in the Spanish media, though Marca suggested there was a possibility of another meeting later in the evening.

After a poor start to the congested season, Barca did manage to drag themselves into title contention, only to slip up towards the end of the campaign.

Their tally of 79 points is their lowest total since 2007-08, when they managed 67. Indeed, the last coach to earn 76 or fewer points in his first 38 games with the club was Frank Rijkaard in 2003-04 (72 - W21 D9 L8).

With Atletico Madrid triumphing this year and Real Madrid winning LaLiga in 2019-20, it meant Barca have failed to win the title in two successive seasons for the first time since 2008.

Uncertainty over Koeman's future has not stopped transfer links, although – in large part due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – Barca's finances have been a cause for concern.

The majority of the first-team squad are reportedly up for sale should offers come in, though the Blaugrana are seemingly in the market for free agents.

Sergio Aguero looks set to join once his contract at Manchester City expires, while Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum – Netherlands regulars under Koeman – and Eric Garcia also look likely to arrive.

Barca's issues were compounded on Tuesday, when UEFA confirmed it had opened disciplinary proceedings against the club, along with Real Madrid and Juventus, for their part in the failed European Super League project, with none of the three teams having yet withdrawn.

Ronald Koeman's first season in charge at Barcelona was less than convincing, creating doubts about his future.

Koeman guided Barcelona to third place in La Liga in 2020-21, as well as lifting the Copa del Rey, but they bowed out of the Champions League in the last 16.

It was a season of change at Barcelona, with Joan Laporta taking over as president in March and recently stating they will undergo an off-season "renovation" and that their "cycle has ended".

 

TOP STORY - KOEMAN SET FOR BARCA SHOWDOWN TALKS

Ronald Koeman will sit down with Barcelona president Joan Laporta this week for showdown talks about his future, claims Diario Sport.

Koeman was appointed by previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu on a two-year deal in August last year.

Laporta will also likely inform the Dutchman to sell up to 10 players to fund their off-season transfer plans.

Barcelona have been linked with a host of players including Sergio Aguero, Erling Haaland and Georginio Wijnaldum this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims that David Alaba will join Real Madrid irrespective of Zinedine Zidane's future. Alaba has completed and agreed to a pre-contract.

- Le10Sport claims Paris Saint-Germain are shaping as the favourites to sign Liverpool's off-contract midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum rather than Barcelona who are yet to make an offer for the Dutchman.

- Barcelona are weighing up an off-season move for Atalanta's German versatile full-back Robin Gosens, claims Diario Sport.

Milan will look to secure Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea on a permanent deal, with a €28million option to buy him, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Arsenal have opted out of the race for Brighton's Yves Bissouma, boosting Liverpool's hopes of signing him reports The Mail.

- Leicester City are in the hunt for Sassuolo midfielder Jeremie Boga, joining the race along with Atalanta and Napoli, according to Calciomercato.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said a cycle has finished for the LaLiga giants and he wants to "carry out a renovation" after an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign.

Barca have fallen off the pace late in the LaLiga title race and will likely finish third in Ronald Koeman's first season as head coach at Camp Nou.

Koeman's Barca lifted the Copa del Rey title last month but crashed out of the Champions League in the round of 16 at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.

Laporta, who assumed office for his second tenure as Barca president in March, said he is seeking an off-season shake-up amid links with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Manchester City star Sergio Aguero and defender Eric Garcia, and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum.

"A cycle has finished and we are working to carry out a renovation," Laporta said at the Festa de l'Esport Catala

"We have been eliminated from the Champions League very early and the league has been lost in an incomprehensible way.

"I'm talking about the end of the cycle and renewal because that's what I think needs to be done.

"Starting next week we are going to make a series of decisions and at that time we will comment.

"Now what we have to do is work hard and effectively to have a very competitive team to win the Champions League and to win the league.

"I already said that when the season is over, I would evaluate the results, the game, the attitude, the mentality and the ambition."

Barcelona last won LaLiga in 2018-19 while they have only reached the Champions League semi-finals once since last lifting the European crown in 2015.

Barca's 2020-21 last-16 exit was their worst Champions League result since the 2006-07 season.

Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona until the end of his career after president Joan Laporta's efforts in revitalising the club.

That is the view of former Barca full-back Gianluca Zambrotta, who believes the Messi transfer saga will be laid to rest once and for all.

It had looked likely Messi would leave, probably for Manchester City, at the start of this campaign but a dispute over the terms of his contract at Camp Nou proved a stumbling block too far.

The Argentina star has since helped Ronald Koeman's side win the Copa del Rey and they remain in the battle for LaLiga, sitting two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who they face on Saturday. 

And Zambrotta, who played for the club between 2006 and 2008, feels Barca now represent a more attractive proposition for Messi since Laporta's election as president for a second time in March.

"They won already an important title in Spain and this is already something," the former Italy international told Stats Perform.

"They are in contention for La Liga title. On Saturday there will be the game versus Atletico Madrid, they are just two points down with Real Madrid, so Barcelona are a team that's still up there regardless of any problem.

"They have the chance to win La Liga too, although it will be a fight until the end.

"I see Barcelona as an improved team in recent months. Laporta has brought enthusiasm and made the place a bit more serene with the aim of keeping their most important player, Messi."

Asked if Barca will achieve that aim, he replied: "I guess so, Messi will never leave Barcelona unless in a distant future he will like to go back to Argentina, but I doubt it.

"I think he will stay at Barcelona until the end of his career."

Barcelona said it would have been an "historical error" not to sign up for the European Super League and the club remains convinced structural reform is needed to protect the financial future of football.

The Blaugrana were announced on Sunday as one of 12 founding members of the highly controversial breakaway league, which received widespread criticism due to the closed-shop nature of the competition.

Less than 48 hours, all six of the Premier League teams that had agreed to sign up all withdrew their participation following a fierce backlash from fans, players, supporters, the Football Association and the UK government.

Atletico Madrid and Serie A rivals Milan and Inter later followed suit, seemingly leaving the league dead in the water before it even took off the ground.

But Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli – leading figures in the Super League – both launched a staunch defence of a competition they remain convinced has to happen as clubs struggle to contend with the economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Newly re-elected Barca president Joan Laporta earlier said the lucrative Super League was "absolutely necessary" and a club statement struck a similarly pleading tone about their belief that change is a must.

"FC Barcelona shares the view of most major European football clubs, and even more so given the current socio-economic climate, that there is a need for structural reforms to guarantee the financial sustainability and feasibility of world football by improving the product that is offered to fans around the world and by consolidating and even increasing the fan base on which this sport is sustained, which is its mainstay and greatest strength," the statement began.

"In this context, the FC Barcelona Board of Directors accepted, as a matter of immediate urgency, the offer to form part, as the founding member, of the Super League, a competition designed to improve the quality and attractiveness of the product offered to the football fans and, at the same time, and as one of FC Barcelona's most inalienable principles, seek new formulas for solidarity with the football family as a whole.

"The decision was made in the conviction that it would have been a historical error to turn down the opportunity to be part of this project as one of its founding members. As one of the world's top sports club, our intention shall always be to be at the forefront, this being an indispensable part of the club's identity and its sporting, social and institutional spirit."

Despite the project seemingly being left in tatters, Perez insisted the project the Super League is "not dead" in an interview with Spanish radio station El Larguero.

Barca said more analysis is clearly needed but said such examination must take place in the absence of "unjustified pressure and intimidation".

The statement added: "Given the public reaction that the aforementioned project has generated in many and various spheres, there is no question that FC Barcelona appreciates that a much more in-depth analysis is required into the reasons that have caused this reaction in order to reconsider, if necessary, and to the required extent, the proposal as originally formulated and resolve all those issues, always for the good of the general interest of the football world. Such in-depth analysis needs time and the necessary composure to avoid taking any rash action.

"We feel it is equally important to highlight the objective fact that a Court of Justice has already granted urgent legal protection as requested, thus confirming right of the initiative on the part of the founding clubs of the Super League project.

"In this regard, FC Barcelona considers that it would be improper for the necessary process of reflection and debate to be established under criteria of unjustified pressure and intimidation.

"Despite being perfectly aware of the importance and interest raised by this matter, as well as the need to always act with the utmost transparency, FC Barcelona shall act at all times with due prudence and asks for the utmost understanding, respect and most of all patience among FC Barcelona supporters and public opinion in general."

Lionel Messi hailed the special achievement of captaining Barcelona to another trophy as president Joan Laporta backed the superstar forward to sign a new deal with the club.

The 33-year-old scored twice in Saturday's 4-0 Copa del Rey final victory over Athletic Bilbao after Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong had given Barca a two-goal lead.

With that double, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner made it a record nine goals in 10 appearances in the final of the competition to overtake Athletic great Telmo Zarra.

He has now scored the fourth most goals ever in the competition (56), meanwhile, behind Guillermo Gorostiza (64), Jose Samitier (69) and Zarra (81).

Messi's future remains a hot topic of debate with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, potentially making this seventh Copa triumph his last for the Catalan giants.

Barca were made to wait until the hour mark to find a way past opposition goalkeeper Unai Simon, but Messi is glad his side's patient approach to breaking down Athletic paid off.

"It's nice to lift a title. It's a very happy day for this group," Messi said. "It is very special to be the captain of this club. It is a very special cup for me to lift.

"We knew Athletic played this way, with a solid 4-4-2. We had patience with the ball and created spaces. We moved a lot in the first half and I think they fell in the second half.

"Not being able to celebrate it with our people, it's a shame. The situation is what we have to live in. The cups are always special and people enjoy them a lot."

Barca have enjoyed an upturn in form since the turn of the year and are two points off top spot in LaLiga, despite defeat to Real Madrid in last week's Clasico.

"It was difficult for us in the first half of the year. We lost a lot of silly points," Messi added. 

"Then we became strong, very good, and we got into the title fight. Last week, unfortunately, we couldn't get a good result from the Clasico."

Messi, who has now hit 30 or more goals for Barca in 13 successive seasons, has been touted as a possible target for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

However, recently elected club president Laporta remains confident that the Argentina international can be tempted to stay at Camp Nou beyond the end of this season.

"Leo is the best in the world, he is deeply rooted in the club," Laporta said. "I am convinced that he wants to stay and we will do everything in our power to make him stay.

"Today we have seen that he is supported by a great team."

The victory at Estadio Olimpico de la Cartuja marked the first piece of silverware won by Koeman since being appointed by Barcelona last August.

And like Laporta, Koeman is hopeful Barca's improved performances in 2021 will be enough to persuade Messi to put pen to paper on fresh terms.

"I hope it is not the last Messi's cup match with us, we want him to continue with us," Koeman said at his post-match news conference.

"You never know if it has been Leo's last final because it is he who must decide. As the president says, we will do our best to make him stay. 

"He has proven, once again, to be the best in the world. With enormous effectiveness, he has led the team."

A bemused Ronald Koeman has described the constant speculation over his future as Barcelona head coach as "a little bit strange". 

It has been a tumultuous debut season for the former Netherlands boss, who arrived at Camp Nou on a two-year contract in August. 

First up, he had to manage the fallout from Lionel Messi's ultimately unsuccessful transfer request ahead of the 2020-21 campaign. 

A failure to get past the last-16 stage in the Champions League was a major disappointment, but a superb recent run in LaLiga has put them into title contention. 

They did suffer a first defeat since early December against Real Madrid in El Clasico last weekend, but they are just two points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid with eight games remaining. 

Up next is Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday and, speaking at a pre-match media conference, a clearly exasperated Koeman did not hold back when asked if failure to secure the trophy would result in his dismissal. 

"If you would like to hear my opinion about this, it's a little bit strange that I need to answer questions like this," he told reporters. 

"We had a run of 19 games without losing, we lose one match and I need to talk about my future. 

"Maybe I need to accept this, but I don't agree. You have to do your job and talk to people in the club. I have one more year of my contract. 

"I know before the game what will happen if we win and if we don't win. I have to accept it. I took this job as a coach and I know there's a big pressure and I can handle that. Sometimes it's a little bit strange."

Despite speculation that Koeman may not start next season as Barca boss, the club's new president Joan Laporta did offer public support to Koeman over his future after his victory in last month's election. 

Asked if he needs Laporta's backing again following the defeat to Madrid, Koeman said: "I don't need this. We have spoken and he has shown me his confidence.

"If someone writes that the coach's future is at risk, the president doesn't have to respond to that by showing confidence.

"I'm the first to know what Laporta thinks. At this club you need to win trophies, and despite the changes and the economic situation at the club, we're here at a final and we want to win it; speculation isn't important."

This will be the fourth meeting between the sides this season, with Barca winning both LaLiga clashes and Athletic securing a dramatic 3-2 triumph in the Supercopa de Espana in January. 

Page 3 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.