The pressure on Ronald Koeman intensified after his 10-man Barcelona side were held to a dire 0-0 draw by Cadiz at Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla on Thursday.

Speculation about the Dutchman's future has been rife following a slow start to the LaLiga campaign that had seen Barca drop points to Athletic Bilbao and Granada in their opening four games, while also losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Things did not get much better for the Catalan giants in Andalusia as Cadiz comfortably kept them at bay, with their misery compounded midway through the second half when Frenkie de Jong saw red for two bookable offences.

A point did at least move Barcelona up to seventh – seven points behind leaders Real Madrid, who have played a game more – while Cadiz climbed to 14th.

While Barca did most of the pressing in the early stages, they did not have a shot on target until the 30th minute, Memphis Depay's weak effort comfortably saved by Jeremias Ledesma.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen pawed away Alvaro Negredo's audacious 25-yard effort immediately after half-time, while Depay miskicked with the goal at his mercy at the other end.

Ledesma pushed away Depay's drive from outside the penalty area, before Barca's hopes of getting a positive result were dealt a blow in the 65th minute when De Jong received a second yellow card for following through on Alfonso Espino after initially winning the ball. 

Salvi Sanchez squandered a glorious opportunity inside the final 10 minutes, firing against Ter Stegen after being played in by Espino, with the ball bouncing behind off Ruben Sobrino.

Depay then had an even better chance to steal all three points for the visitors deep into stoppage time, as the Netherlands international clipped narrowly wide after a marauding Gerard Pique carried Barca forward.

Ronald Koeman's job as Barcelona head coach does not depend on the outcome of Thursday's meeting with Cadiz, but president Joan Laporta has warned that "if decisions have to be taken, we will take them".

The Dutchman is under growing pressure following a slow start to the campaign that has seen Barca drop points to Athletic Bilbao and Granada in their opening four LaLiga games, while also losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Amid reports Barca are lining up replacements for Koeman, with Belgium boss Roberto Martinez supposedly among the candidates, Koeman refused to answer any questions from reporters at Wednesday's news conference previewing the trip to Cadiz.

Koeman instead chose to read a prepared statement in which he urged Barca fans to have patience with the process while claiming the club's hierarchy – including Laporta – was fully behind him.

There have even been suggestions in the Spanish press that Thursday's clash at Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla could be the 58-year-old's last in charge should Barca fail to pick up all three points.

While Laporta insisted that is not the case, the Barca chief fell short of guaranteeing that the former Netherlands boss will remain in charge further down the line if results do not pick up.

"Koeman's future doesn't depend on the result tonight," he told El Chiringuito outside the Barcelona team hotel on Thursday. "We are with the coach. He's Barca's first team coach and what we want is for things to go well.

"All coaches, not just Koeman, depend on results, and in Barca's case on their style of play. Koeman is our coach and we're with him today."

 

Barcelona have failed to win five of their last eight LaLiga games stretching back into last season, as many as in their previous 24 matches in the competition, and are eighth in the table ahead of their game in hand.

Koeman this week spoke out in the Dutch media about the wider issues at Camp Nou and how Lionel Messi, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer last month, papered over the cracks with his individual brilliance.

But Laporta does not want to use Messi's shock departure, plus the subsequent exit of Antoine Griezmann, as an excuse for Barca's disappointing run of results.

"We see that the team isn't working as we all were hoping," Laporta said. "In that sense, we'll act thinking always of Barcelona... If decisions have to be taken, we'll take them.

"What I don't like is a conformist attitude, a certain defeatism, that can't be allowed at Barcelona. We have the team we have, but we can aspire to win LaLiga and the players say to me that we have to be optimistic.

"We have to work, we have to fight every day, because I believe you achieve success with daily work. Less talking and more doing, more working."

Barcelona have failed to win their last two LaLiga games against Cadiz (D1 L1). If they fail to win Thursday's match, it will be their longest winless run against the Andalusian side in the competition.

Lionel Messi was like a "tyrant" in training and helped to "disguise everything" wrong at Barcelona in recent years, according to head coach Ronald Koeman.

Barca were left without their talisman in August when Messi departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after they were unable to fulfil a new contract that had been agreed with the superstar forward.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored 672 goals and assisted 265 more across 778 appearances during a trophy-laden 17-season spell at Camp Nou.

Koeman's side have made a slow start to the post-Messi era, having dropped points to Athletic Bilbao and Granada in their first four LaLiga games and lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

And with his job reportedly under threat amid speculation Barca are ready to move for Roberto Martinez, Koeman accepts Messi's performances papered over the cracks for too long.

"Lionel Messi disguised everything. He was so good and he won," Koeman told Voetbal International. "Of course he had good players around him, but he made the difference.

"Everyone seems better than they are because of him. This is not a criticism, but an observation. I knew how good he is, but it's still nice to see it up close every day.

"Everything you would like to teach a football player, in recognising situations, in taking the ball under pressure, in ball speed, in finishing; with Messi everything is a 10. Not normal, not normal!

 

"When we did a finishing practice during training, there were sometimes players who started to hit easy balls, a bit of fooling around. But with Messi everything was: boom, boom, boom, boom.

"Never frills, everything functional. And he always wanted to win everything. We always play a rondo before training. If the ball goes around 20 times, then the players in the middle must have an extra turn.

"If that happens three times in a row, the players will form two lines and the two who were in the middle then walk through and get taps on their heads and such.

"I asked Messi if it had happened to him once. 'Yes, once,' he said. In all those years. With him, the older players never lost an exercise against the young. It happened once and Messi was seriously angry about that for a week. Really, a tyrant."

Messi failed in an attempt to force through a move away from Barcelona last year and went on to score 38 goals in 47 games last season – 18 goals more than Barca's next-highest scorer Antoine Griezmann, who has also departed the club.

That includes 30 goals in LaLiga, which was an increase on the 25 managed in the season before Koeman arrived.

Koeman fears Messi's departure could have a major knock-on effect, with the standards of some players – fellow academy graduate Ansu Fati among them – slipping since Messi signed for PSG.

"He delivered 50 goals last year: 30 goals, 20 assists. He was an example for others," Koeman said. "When we won the cup, Messi had won so many trophies, bigger than this one, but you saw that the Copa del Rey really did something for him this time. 

"With those young players in there, he saw the future of the club. All those guys wanted to take a picture with him, I've never seen anything like it. That's how big he was and is. It was a shock to the whole town that he's not here now."

 

Koeman added: "The performance with Messi is perfect. We now sometimes do a pass and kick practices, where you had to shoot the ball into a small goal, around a post. 

"The other day I saw Ansu Fati shoot three metres wide, simply due to lack of concentration. But he wouldn't have done that if Messi had still been there. Then, he got set right, Messi became furious. That never happened to [Messi].

"I have never met anyone except Johan Cruyff with his football intelligence. Alfred [Schreuder, Koeman's assistant] sometimes explained the exercises in English and Messi does not speak that very well. But after a few seconds he knew it."

Despite his job being under threat ahead of Thursday's trip to Cadiz, Koeman stands by his decision to step down as Netherlands boss in August 2020 to take over at Camp Nou.

"I do not regret signing for Barcelona and leaving the Dutch team," he said. "It's in situations like these that I get the best out of myself and my team."

Ronald Koeman did not answer questions at Barcelona's news conference on Wednesday, instead reading out a pre-prepared statement.

Barca were held to a 1-1 draw by Granada at Camp Nou on Monday, with Koeman's team resorting to desperate measures to rescue a point courtesy of centre-back Ronald Araujo.

With Lionel Messi having left due to Barca's dire financial circumstances, the Blaugrana also allowed Antoine Griezmann to rejoin Atletico Madrid late in August and look far off mounting a title challenge in LaLiga this season.

They also lost their opening Champions League match, going down 3-0 to Bayern Munich.

Koeman seems to be under mounting pressure, with president Joan Laporta reportedly keen to replace the Dutchman. Roberto Martinez has been touted as a potential replacement.

However, reports suggest Koeman would be set for a large pay-off should he be dismissed, casting doubt over Barca's ability to change coach.

Koeman was set to face the media on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's league meeting with Cadiz, yet instead he refused to answer questions and read from a statement, urging Barca fans to have patience with the process and insisting the club's hierarchy was behind him.

"Good morning everyone, the club is with me in a situation of rebuilding," Koeman said. 

"The financial situation of the club is linked to the sporting activities and vice versa, this means that we have to rebuild the team without being able to make any big financial investments.

"This needs time, the young talent today can end up being the next big stars in just the next few years. The good thing is that young people will be able to have opportunities like Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta had in their day, but we must ask for patience.

"What's more, to remain in a high ranking in LaLiga it would be a success, this is a great footballing school for this talent.

"In the Champions League you cannot expect miracles. The defeat against Bayern Munich must be taken from this perspective. 

"The process that we're in right now, the staff deserves unconditional support in words and in actions. I know the press recognise this process, it's not the first time in Barcelona's history that this has happened.

"We count on your support in these difficult times, we as a squad and players are very happy with the support we had from the fans like we had against Granada."

Heading into Thursday's match, Barca have failed to win five of their last eight LaLiga games (W3 D4 L1), as many as in their previous 24 matches in the competition (W19 D3 L2).

They also have poor recent history against Cadiz, failing to win in their last two LaLiga games against the Andalusian side (D1 L1). If they do not win this match, it will be their longest winless run against them in the competition.

Carlo Ancelotti sympathised with Ronald Koeman's poor start at Barcelona as Real Madrid prepare for the visit of Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Madrid left it late against Valencia last time out, scoring twice in three minutes to win 2-1 and extend their unbeaten run to 23 LaLiga games.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have only won twice in the Spanish top flight so far, most recently being held to a 1-1 draw by strugglers Granada on Monday.

Reports from Spain on Tuesday suggest that Barca are considering sacking Koeman and replacing him with Belgium boss Roberto Martinez.

However, Ancelotti warned that teams will always go through difficult periods, with his side included in the anecdote despite their impressive 13-point haul from five games this term.

"You always have problems, now everything goes well for us, but surely problems will come to us," Ancelotti responded when asked about Koeman's difficulties.

"And a coach should focus on solving problems when they come.

"If we are able to maintain this attitude and with the quality that the team has, we will move forward. The spirit is the most important lately because we have always fought to the end.

"Winning comes first but if you play well you have a better chance of winning. But what does it mean to play well? For me the key is balance, playing well with or without the ball."

Los Blancos could record their best start to a league campaign since 2013-14 – also under Ancelotti – if they beat Mallorca, who have lost more top-flight games against Madrid than any other opponent (37).

But Ancelotti refused to be drawn on questions of how his side compares to his previous team from his first tenure in Spain's capital.

"I must take into account the characteristics of these players, different from those of 2014, learn and try to put them in a good position on the field," he continued.

"That's the job. At the club they know me well and we're having a good time now I think.

"It is very good, it is a honeymoon for me. We will live good times and bad times but I will never lose the respect that I have for this club.

"And the same way backwards. Difficult times will come but we will have a good time, just as it happened in my first stage here."

Ronald Koeman explained Granada's early goal and the limited resources at his disposal meant Barcelona could not play 'tiki-taka' as they battled to a draw on Monday. 

In their first match since going down 3-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Barca narrowly avoided suffering another home defeat. 

Domingos Duarte headed a second-minute opener for Granada, chasing their second straight Camp Nou win after 24 straight losses, and the Blaugrana had to wait until the final seconds of normal time to respond. 

Ronald Araujo got the leveller with a header of his own, coming from one of 54 Barca crosses. 

Since the 2005-06 season, the Catalan side have only once registered more crosses in a match, sending in 55 in a goalless draw against Malaga in November 2016. 

Sergino Dest and Memphis Depay each delivered 16 crosses, a tally topped only by Dani Alves (on five occasions) and Neymar (in the Malaga game) among Barca players in that period. 

In the same time span, no other Barca player can match Araujo's five headed attempts in a league game. 

It was a far cry from the passing patterns Pep Guardiola's team used to produce, but under-fire coach Koeman, who refused to discuss his future after the match, felt Barca had little other option in pursuit of an equaliser. 

"Our bad start made it very difficult for us," Koeman said. "It was a play with two or three previous actions that we have not played well, then the cross and the goal have arrived. 

"You face a team that is going to waste time from minute one, that is going to defend more and without spaces. It is all more difficult. 

 

"The space was on the wings, not inside. Our basic system is 4-3-3 and that's how we played in the first half, then with [Philippe] Coutinho behind and Memphis on the left. 

"But the Barca of today is not the Barca of eight years ago. It's not the game we want, but we lack players for one-on-one situations. Coutinho and [Yusuf] Demir go more inside. 

"With Ansu [Fati] and [Ousmane] Dembele we would have [these players], but they are not here and we have to look for other ways to attack, such as playing more on the outside and crossing. 

"If you see the team sheet, what else should be done? Play 'tiki-taka' if there is no space? 

"We didn't want to play like this at the start of the game, but it wasn't easy to play short and we don't have players with speed on the wing. 

"There was no room on the inside, but there was room on the outside for Dest and Memphis to cross on the left and [Oscar] Mingueza [nine crosses off the bench] on the right. 

"In the end, we were able to draw at a time when we were good at squeezing the opponent. But we have lost two points." 

Despite outlining their deficiencies, Koeman praised his players, adding: "We must highlight the attitude. 

"People leave unhappy because we don't win, but not because of the attitude. I want to highlight the energy we put into winning a point. We have had dedication and the support of our people, who have encouraged us and to whom I thank. 

"We deserved the draw and with a bit of luck we were able to win. And that also has to be seen. You have to highlight the ambition to want to win." 

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman has no regrets over his decision to take charge at Camp Nou.

Koeman left his role in charge of the Netherlands to return to Barca – where he established himself as a club great as a player – as coach in 2020, following Quique Setien's dismissal

The Dutchman's time at the helm has not gone smoothly, with Barca's financial difficulties making the job even more complicated.

President Joan Laporta was said to be uncertain on keeping Koeman when he took over earlier in 2021, while Barca's squad has been significantly dented by the departure of Lionel Messi in August, while Antoine Griezmann also left late in the window.

Koeman does have Memphis Depay at his disposal, with the duo having previously worked together with the Netherlands, and the former Lyon forward has made a strong start to life in LaLiga.

With Barca labouring to a third-place finish last term, Laporta subsequently started a search for a replacement for Koeman, only to stick with the 58-year-old.

Koeman, who said to NOS some of his president's previous comments were "not wise" and claimed he was "the future of Barcelona", stated prior to Tuesday's Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich that there were no issues between himself and Laporta.

Ahead of Monday's meeting with Granada, Koeman reiterated that, despite the difficulties he faces, he does not regret taking up the job and has no concerns over his future.

"I do not regret coming. It is a complicated situation for me, the club and the fans," Koeman told a news conference.

 

"We lack things. We all want the best for the club. I knew it and wanted to come. But I did not expect this situation, with the economic problems, but I fight and I want to be here and I want to win.

"I don't know anything [about my future]. I only think about the game and the team. The rest is not in my hands.

"I am calm and confident of winning games. We have to recover to have more players available, but I know that we have to win, it is only the results that count.

"I am not afraid for my future. The club decides."

Asked if he feels there is a campaign against him, Koeman said: "I don't feel that way, but everyone has the right to have a say and be for or against me. This cannot be helped."

Barca sit ninth on seven points, but remain unbeaten in their three LaLiga games so far this term. Should they win or draw Monday's game, they will have their highest point total from their first four matches of a league campaign since 2018-19.

History is also on Barca's side. At home, they have won 24 of their 25 matches against Granada in LaLiga, with the only exception coming in their loss in their last meeting at Camp Nou in the competition in April.

Ronald Koeman believes Barcelona have a "unique opportunity" for revenge as they prepare to host Bayern Munich in Tuesday's first round of Champions League matches.

The last time the two teams met, the visitors inflicted Barca's heaviest defeat since April 1951 in an 8-2 thrashing in the 2019-20 Champions League quarter-final.

Bayern have won also each of their last 17 openers in the competition since 2003-04, but Barca are unbeaten in their last 22 such fixtures – a run stretching back to 1997-98.

And Koeman is looking forward to the test against Julian Nagelsmann's side as the Catalan club prepare for their first Champions League campaign since 2003-04 without Lionel Messi, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain in August.

"Tomorrow we have the first Champions League game and we are changing things," Koeman told Monday's pre-match news conference.

"Chelsea won last year and was not among the two or three favourites. We know that Bayern is a great team, with individual quality and experienced people.

"We want to compete in the Champions League and we play at home. We will try to get a good result to start the Champions League.

"It's been more than a year and several players suffered a lot in that game [the 8-2 loss]. We have a unique opportunity. We can hurt Bayern and we have a good team. We have to look for our style to hurt the opposition."

Sergio Busquets started in midfield in the crushing defeat, but he is expecting a different challenge with Nagelsmann at the helm.

"They have a new coach and he will try to play his way," Busquets told reporters. "He has kept the entire squad, except for some who have stayed on the road like Thiago.

"He will surely try to win. What happened was difficult to accept, but the world of football is like that. Time has passed and we are psyched that it will be different."

Asked to discuss his team's Champions League hopes following Messi's departure, the midfielder said: "Anything can happen in football. Chelsea won the Champions League and were not favourites.

"The important thing is the collective level and we know that we do not have Leo [Messi] or his individualities.

"We are here, excited and we are aware of the difficulty, but we have a lot of ambition and we want to win."

Ronald Koeman claimed he has no issues with Barcelona president Joan Laporta after suggestions of a fractured relationship between the pair.

Barca limped to a third-place finish last term in LaLiga – seven points behind champions Atletico Madrid – and were knocked out in the last-16 stages of the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain.

Laporta subsequently undertook a managerial replacement search in June before deciding to stick with Koeman, who said to NOS some of his president's previous comments were "not wise".

However, ahead of the Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, the Catalan club's head coach offered assurances on his relationship with Laporta.

"Our relationship is good," Koeman told Monday's pre-match news conference. "If there are things, we talk about them.

"We want the best of the club, which is always the most important thing.

"I don't have a problem with the president and we talk about things about the club, a perfect relationship for me. We've had little things, but we're fine."

Koeman, who lost Blaugrana legend Lionel Messi from his squad in August to PSG amid financial complications with LaLiga, has afforded numerous youngsters an opportunity in the opening games.

Indeed, Barca have utilised the most Under-21 players among Spanish top-flight squads so far (eight) as Koeman feels this is his best option with all the financial issues surrounding the club.

"The only thing I have said is that I am a coach who gives opportunities to young players," Koeman responded when asked about his NOS interview.

"You never know if another coach will give as many opportunities as we do. I am a coach and I seek the best for the club.

"We know it is a complicated situation, but we are improving things and one of these is giving opportunities to young people, who are the future of the club."

And after suggesting the club had a future thanks to his work, Koeman backtracked on his comments slightly: "My future is not important, the future of the club and the team is important. Tomorrow we have an opportunity to compete.

"Being a Barcelona coach is winning games and we are at a time when we have to work."

Ronald Koeman insists his work has been paramount in saving Barcelona, but his relationship with club president Joan Laporta is yet to fully recover.

The Catalan club underwhelmed in Koeman's first term last campaign, finishing third – seven points behind champions Atletico Madrid – in LaLiga and exiting at the Champions League's last-16 stage to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca's problems were further compounded in August, amid financial difficulties and complications with LaLiga, when Blaugrana legend Lionel Messi departed on a free and several players had to take pay cuts to allow registration of new signings.

However, despite Koeman's seemingly fragile relationship with Laporta, who went on an unsuccessful managerial replacement search in June, the Dutchman is enjoying his time at Camp Nou as he looks ahead to a potential new contract.

"It has improved a bit [the relationship with Laporta]," Koeman told NOS. "But when you let things blow a bit as a club and are not clear about the future of a coach, then you get speculation.

"And if you are the one who is the coach, then that is not a nice case.

"Last week there was also something in the media, which I think was not right. That again suggests that the trainer does not have full power.

"He said a little too much. That can be done in private. I like it when a president is committed and also asks questions. Only that it should not be in the press, that was the problem.

"Laporta was not wise on two occasions, let me put it this way. We are also in contact about a new contract now. Thanks to me, this club has a future.

"I see a lot of potential. I am open to stay here, I am enjoying myself here."

Koeman's new-look team, in the absence of Messi, have picked up seven points from their first three matches, with Barca utilising the most under-21 players in their Spanish top-flight matchday squads so far (eight).

Indeed, the former Netherlands manager revealed academy products will always get chances under his stewardship as he warned Barca's financial struggles will have a knock-on impact on their competitiveness in Europe.

"It's not just Pedri," Koeman continued. "There are still four or five players aged 18 or 19 who will be fantastic players for this club in three or four years.

"Accepting things and not being able to do things that maybe they [the club] should. That's the moment. Focus on the youth and give them a chance.

"Barcelona is in debt and therefore has to deal with fair play in Spain. The best players cannot come to Barcelona because they have higher contracts and cost a lot of money, which the club does not have.

"Sportingly, this club will always be good. The question is, can you get back to the level where you will really win Champions Leagues and be the best in Spain for years in a row? That is not the case at the moment. Let's hope that it will come again."

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman believes new signing Luuk de Jong is more dangerous than Neymar from crosses.

LaLiga giants Barca raised eyebrows when they signed Dutch forward de Jong from rivals Sevilla on loan at the end of the transfer window.

De Jong had been linked with a potential return to former club PSV in the Eredivisie and was shunted down to third choice at Sevilla following the signing of Rafa Mir from Wolves.

But late on deadline day, cash-strapped Barca – who already lost superstar Lionel Messi on a free transfer – allowed Antoine Griezmann to depart for Spanish champions Atletico Madrid and the Blaugrana replaced the Frenchman with de Jong on a temporary deal for 2021-22.

Koeman hailed countryman de Jong, who he feels is superior to Paris Saint-Germain star and former Barca forward Neymar in one department.

"When there's a cross coming in, Luuk is more dangerous than Neymar," Koeman told NOS.

"He's a different kind of forward to what we have, and I think all teams should have one like him."

De Jong averaged 1.1 headed shots per 90 minutes in LaLiga last season, a figure bettered by only four strikers (minimum 900 minutes played).

Similarly, just four forwards bettered his 0.36 headed shots on target per 90 minutes as well.

What makes that figure slightly more impressive is the fact Sevilla would not be considered a 'direct' team. According to Opta data, Julen Lopetegui's men only recorded 35 'direct attacks' last season, the second-fewest in the division, whereas Barcelona's 67 was the third-highest.

A direct attack is defined as a sequence that begins just inside the team's own half and has at least 50 per cent of movement towards the opposition's goal and ends with a shot or touch in the box, so while that does not necessarily mean Barca smash long balls to the front man constantly, it does suggest Koeman's setup will provide de Jong with chances to be useful.

Koeman added: "I told the club last year [that I wanted to sign de Jong].

"I wanted to be able to change my forwards. If the game calls for someone like Luuk, then he'll play.

"We lost Antoine Griezmann on the last day of the window and only had three forwards.

"I first made contact with Luuk on August 8 and, even before that, I wondered why Barcelona didn't have a guy like that."

Barcelona are a structurally better side without superstar forward Lionel Messi, according to head coach Ronald Koeman.

The LaLiga giants were left stunned last month when Messi departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after they were unable to fulfil a new contract that had been agreed.

Messi's exit has left a big void at Camp Nou, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner having scored 672 goals and assisted 265 across his 778 appearances for Barcelona.

Barca have started the post-Messi era with two wins and a draw in their opening three league matches, scoring seven goals in the process, and Koeman believes his side are adjusting to life without their greatest ever player.

"It was a huge blow to lose him," Koeman told Sport. "We had planned for the season with him. 

"We lose so much and it took a few days to get things in order, but we must turn the page and build the team.

"Losing Messi doesn't oblige us to play different tactically but there are things without the ball where the team can improve. 

"We won't have the individual quality of Leo, but in pressing and structuring the team, the team is better now."

 

Antoine Griezmann is another high-profile forward to have left Catalonia last month, the France international returning to Atletico Madrid on an initial loan just two years after swapping clubs.

Koeman understands the club's decision to let Griezmann depart in the final stages of the window, with Luuk de Jong arriving from Sevilla as a replacement.

"The aggravation we had on the last day, with practically no time to find a solution, it was a b****," Koeman said.

"Griezmann had a great contract and if he left it was going to help improve the financial situation of the club. That's why I agreed to his departure."

 

Koeman has repeatedly called on his other attacking players to step up and new recruit Memphis Depay has done exactly that with two goals and an assist in his first three competitive games for Barca.

Depay also scored his first international hat-trick for the Netherlands in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Turkey to move level with Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra in Oranje's list of all-time top scorers.

President Joan Laporta revealed this week Depay's number nine shirt is now the biggest seller at Barca and Koeman has backed his compatriot to be the face of the club for years to come.

"Memphis can mark an era at Barca," Koeman said. "He has something that is essential to be a success here: personality and character. 

"There's something different about him and he's really motivated by the challenge of being here."

He added: "There are always things to improve but I'll tell you one thing: if we have everyone available, we can do big things.

"We have a great team. We still have to be realistic, it will be difficult, but I am optimistic and ambitious."

New Barcelona striker Luuk de Jong accepts he is "different" to the club's usual style of striker but pointed out Ronald Koeman knows how to utilise him.

De Jong joined Barca on loan from Sevilla at the end of the transfer window with the Dutchman seen by most as a curious option in many senses.

He had been linked with a potential return to former club PSV and was shunted down to third choice at Sevilla following the signing of Rafa Mir from Wolves.

But late on deadline day, cash-strapped Barca allowed Antoine Griezmann to depart for Atletico Madrid and the Blaugrana replaced the Frenchman with De Jong on a temporary deal for 2021-22.

It is a signing that many Barca fans will have deemed underwhelming given De Jong hardly sparkled previously in LaLiga with Sevilla and his skillset is not one that necessarily lends itself to the club's traditional philosophy of short, sharp passing and fluid, possession-based football.

Indeed, De Jong acknowledged he brings qualities that are seemingly at odds with Barca's past.

"I am tall, I am a good header of the ball," he told Barca TV upon his arrival. "As I already said before, I am a player with a different skillset."

De Jong played under Koeman for the Dutch national team, meaning the coach should feel confident about how to get the best out of his abilities.

"Koeman knows that he can use me in the final minutes when he needs a player that's tall and good with his head," he continued.

"That's the kind of player I am. [But] as I showed in Sevilla, I also have other aspects to my game."

Given the cultural significance of the style of play implemented at Barca, De Jong outlining his strengths suit a direct style of play may not go down too well with certain sections of supporters.

But there is no doubt such a brand of football is likely to ensure De Jong brings more to the table at Camp Nou – after all, he averaged 1.1 headed shots per 90 minutes in LaLiga last term, a figure bettered by only four strikers (minimum 900 minutes played).

Similarly, just four forwards bettered his 0.36 headed shots on target per 90 minutes as well.

 

What makes that figure slightly more impressive is the fact Sevilla would not be considered a 'direct' team. According to Opta data, Julen Lopetegui's men only recorded 35 'direct attacks' last season, the second-fewest in the division, whereas Barcelona's 67 was the third-highest.

A direct attack is defined as a sequence that begins just inside the team's own half and has at least 50 per cent of movement towards the opposition's goal and ends with a shot or touch in the box, so while that does not necessarily mean Barca smash long balls to the front man constantly, it does suggest Koeman's setup will provide De Jong with chances to be useful.

His first such opportunities could even come against Sevilla this weekend.

"I'm not worried," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing with all my team-mates. I'm looking forward to playing against Sevilla, and I hope to win also."

Miralem Pjanic accused Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman of disrespecting him after departing the LaLiga club for Turkish champions Besiktas.

Barca outcast and Bosnia-Herzegovina international Pjanic will spend the season on loan with Besiktas following one poor campaign at Camp Nou.

Pjanic arrived at Barca in 2020 for a reported initial fee of €60million in a peculiar swap deal that saw Arthur go the other way to Juventus for an estimated €72m, but he failed to convince and fell down the pecking order in the second half of 2020-21.

After being frozen out by Koeman at Barca, Pjanic reflected on his time with the Spanish giants.

"The coach, yes," Pjanic told Marca when asked if he was respected at Barca.

"I couldn't get used to the situation I faced last year. I knew I didn't want it. I'm a player. I love playing football, this is what makes me happy.

"I always wanted to play for Barca but I didn't expect the situation to get so complicated. 

"There was a point that I was playing less, things were getting complicated. And when I played it was difficult physically and mentally to be well, because it was killing my confidence, because I had no communication with [Koeman]. 

"It was very strange, because a coach is the one who says who plays and who doesn't, but there are different ways to do things. I am a player who can accept everything but I would always like to be told things face to face. Not as if nothing happened and I was 15 years old."

Pjanic played 30 games across all competitions but only 13 were starts, with just four of those coming after the turn of the year as Ronald Koeman's lack of faith became ever clearer.

He did not score or assist a single goal all season, making him the only outfield player who played at least 170 minutes for the club last term to not have one goal involvement.

Pressed on what he thought the reason for Koeman's snub was, Pjanic added: "I've honestly asked myself a lot of times, wondering what I did wrong. Maybe he didn't like that I said I wanted to play more public.

"But any coach would say 'okay, this is a competition and I like to hear that'. That might be it, but I'd have liked him to tell me to my face that I wasn't for him. It didn't exist though and I don't understand him. It's complicated because it's the first time it's happened to me and I've never seen behaviour like that before."

Asked if he regretted joining Barca from Juve, Pjanic said: "No, never. Things happen in life, and I've always fought through my career. I'm ambitious, competitive, I've reached the level of Barcelona and Juventus.

"I know I can play for those teams, I just wasn't given a chance."

The transfer window does not close. It slams shut, and on Tuesday, it slammed shut with a flurry of late activity.

LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid were heavily involved, with Antoine Griezmann re-joining the club on loan from Barcelona while Saul Niguez left for Chelsea.

It marked the end of a difficult window for Barca, who of course lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, who rounded off a stellar three months by not only keeping Kylian Mbappe, but also adding promising left-back Nuno Mendes.

Earlier in the day, Cristiano Ronaldo's sensational return to Manchester United had been confirmed, perhaps putting the Red Devils right in the mix for the Premier League title, while Chelsea - buoyed by Romelu Lukaku's comeback - cannot be ignored.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the winners, and losers, of what has been a chaotic transfer window.

 

THE WINNERS

Paris Saint-Germain

Let's start with the obvious. Achraf Hakimi, Mendes, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georgino Wijnaldum and, of course Messi. Oh, and PSG kept hold of Mbappe, too, rebuffing three bids - the final one reportedly worth €200m - from Real Madrid for the 22-year-old superstar who is out of contract next year. Speaking of out of contract players, Ramos, Donnarumma, Wijnaldum and Messi were all brought in for combined fees of €0, although their wages are sure to be astronomical even by PSG's standards. In Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, PSG have, on paper, what could be the most feared attacking trident of the modern era, not to mention Angel Di Maria in reserve. Mauricio Pochettino's side look suspect defensively but have Ramos to come in, while Donnarumma will compete with Keylor Navas. If they do not win the Champions League this season, will they ever manage it?

Manchester United

It remains to be seen whether United really needed to go out and buy Ronaldo, but the temptation – and reportedly, the requirement to get one over on noisy neighbours Manchester City – was just too much. However, there is no doubting Ronaldo brings a focal point you could argue was still missing from the Red Devils' attack, though with so much quality at his disposal the pressure will be on Ole Gunnar Solskjer to deliver a trophy. United spent big on Jadon Sancho and also brought in a world class defender in Raphael Varane. A title tilt might not be expected just yet, but silverware in some form must be the goal now. After fan protests during the botched Super League proposals earlier this year, the Glazer family seem to have gone all out to prove they want success.

Chelsea

When it comes to Premier League title contenders, Chelsea have surely put themselves well in the running. The European Champions have brought in two major additions in the form of Lukaku and Saul, both players with a wealth of experience at the highest level, and both on the back of title-winning campaigns last season. The Blues did sell Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma, among others, but the strength in depth Thomas Tuchel has to play with is remarkable. A deadline day move for Sevilla's Jules Kounde did not materialise, but Saul adds another fantastic option in midfield to go alongside N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and the in-form Jorginho.

Tottenham

For a long while, it looked as though Tottenham would be one of the big losers from this window. A prolonged managerial search eventually resulted in Nuno Espirito Santo's appointment, but the main saga was over Harry Kane's future. City reportedly made one bid, during Euro 2020, which was dismissed out of hand. The champions never did return with an improved offer, despite huge speculation, and Kane ultimately stayed put. Older players such as Joe Hart, Toby Alderweireld, Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko were moved out, while Bryan Gil, Pierluigi Gollini, Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal – a deadline day arrival from Barca – arrived to fill the gaps. Serge Aurier's contract was terminated, while three wins from three means Spurs sat top of the league heading into the international break.

Atletico Madrid

While Saul was a deadline day exit, Atleti have given themselves a great chance of retaining their LaLiga title. With rivals Madrid failing to land Mbappe, as well as losing two of their stalwarts, and Barca seemingly in disarray, there has never been a better opportunity for Diego Simeone's team to really assert themselves as top dogs in Spain. Griezmann's arrival, on a season-long loan with the option for either club to extend the switch, has bolstered a fearsome attack that already included Luis Suarez, Angel Correa, new signing Matheus Cunha and Joao Felix - though the latter may now find chances to play in his preferred position, nominally off the front man, even harder to come by. Saul was struggling to nail down a regular spot in the first team, but Atleti showed greater desire to keep Kieran Trippier, who stayed despite interest from the Premier League. Rodrigo de Paul also arrived from Udinese.

 

THE LOSERS

Barcelona

The chickens have finally come home to roost at Camp Nou. Years of mismanagement, and the impact of COVID-19, has left the club's finances in a shambolic state. Barca had agreed to a new deal with Messi only to then announce the deal could not be completed due to "financial and structural obstacles". Barca ended the window by selling promising youngster Ilaix Moriba to RB Leipzig and shipping off Emerson to Spurs. Then, late on Tuesday, Griezmann, who cost Barca €120m in 2019, was sent back to Atleti. Luuk de Jong, a target man Ronald Koeman worked with during his stint as the Netherlands' coach, was drafted in from Sevilla as a replacement. Memphis Depay seems ready to step up after his arrival from Lyon, while Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero also came in on free transfers, though Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets were among the players who took pay cuts in order for Barca to register their latest acquisitions.

Inter

Serie A champions Inter were dealt a blow when, just after ending their 11-year trophy drought, coach Antonio Conte left the club. Financial difficulties meant the Nerrazurri had to cash in on prized assets, and Hakimi and subsequently Lukaku followed Conte out of the door. Lautaro Martinez did stay, however, with Inter reinvesting some of the funds to sign Netherlands right-back Denzel Dumfries, Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Lazio forward Juan Correa. Hakan Calhanoglu, meanwhile, joined from rivals Milan on loan, though it is difficult to see that being enough for Inter to challenge on all fronts this season.

 

Juventus

While Inter were weakened, it has to be said that Juventus – surely their closest rivals in the Scudetto hunt – also had a disappointing window. Like many European clubs, they have been hit hard by COVID-19, though appeared well set to challenge again after reappointing Massimiliano Allegri. However, Ronaldo decided he wanted out late in the window, and Juve did not stand in his way. An initial fee of £12.86m (€15m), payable over five years, was agreed with United, and Ronaldo left just like that. Moise Kean returned from Everton on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy as a replacement, while Manuel Locatelli was their other major acquisition and Weston McKennie's move from Schalke was made permanent. Based on the performance in Sunday's defeat to Empoli, however, Juve are far from the force they were during Allegri's last spell in charge.

Real Madrid

For a time last week, it really did look as though Madrid were going to end the window in sensational fashion. Three bids were lodged for Mbappe, but PSG did not buckle. Madrid did move for another French youngster – Edouardo Camavinga, who joined from Rennes on Tuesday – but overall it must be considered a poor window. Los Blancos allowed Ramos to leave on a free and sold long-time defensive partner Varane - just the eight Champions League winners' medals between them. Martin Odegaard was deemed surplus to requirements by Carlo Ancelotti and sold to Arsenal, though no buyers were found for fringe players Luka Jovic or Dani Ceballos. David Alaba's arrival on a free transfer from Bayern Munich at least softened the blow of Ramos' departure, and Mbappe may well be on board in 2022.

Manchester City

City broke the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, who in turn have made smart acquisitions such as Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia. While another attacking midfielder was more of a luxury than a necessity, City did miss out on Kane and then seemingly saw Ronaldo snatched from under their noses by United, though the club have claimed it is they who pulled out of the deal. Pep Guardiola went into the window wanting an out-and-out number nine following Aguero's departure, but for now the Premier League champions will have to carry on with makeshift forwards, it seems. Not that it did them much harm in 5-0 routs of Norwich City and Arsenal last month. Meanwhile, wantaway playmaker Bernardo Silva is still at the club, though he will remain a first-team regular.

Liverpool 

Unlike their league rivals, Liverpool never seemed focused on spending big. The Reds instead turned their attention to tying down the futures of key players, with Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Fabinho and Andrew Robertson signing new deals. Ibrahima Konate came in from RB Leipzig to boost the defence – a clear area of weakness last season during an injury crisis – though Jurgen Klopp's squad does seem weaker. They have started the season well, but it remains to be seen how they cope without Wijnaldum and even Xherdan Shaqiri should injuries trouble them again.

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