Memphis Depay is confident he can form a balanced front three with Lionel Messi and fellow new signing Sergio Aguero at Barcelona.

Netherlands attacker Depay joined Barca as a free agent when his Lyon contract expired on July 1 and scored a penalty on his debut in Saturday's 3-1 friendly win over Girona.

The 27-year-old got his career back on track at Lyon following a disappointing spell with Manchester United, scoring 76 goals in 178 appearance for the Ligue 1 side.

Depay played mainly as a centre-forward in the French top flight last season and scored 20 goals – only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27) netted more.

He also showed his ability to create for others by laying on 12 assists and creating 94 chances, which were more than any other player managed in Ligue 1 in 2020-21.

And the PSV academy product believes he is capable of playing with ex-Manchester City striker Aguero and Messi, who is expected to sign a new deal to remain at Camp Nou.

"We are all attackers, but we are all different in my opinion," Depay told Sport. "I have different abilities and strengths than Aguero, for example, or any other player.

"I think the three of us are compatible and different. But we will see how everything goes.

"It would be amazing to play with Messi and I hope that is possible. He has a number of qualities that the team needs and it's important to build everything around that.

"There is a lot of talent here. It would be great to play alongside him and win titles."

 

Depay previously played under Barca head coach Ronald Koeman for the Netherlands national side and is glad to have reunited with his compatriot in Catalonia.

"He has had a great impact on me," Depay said. "He changed the Netherlands team and counted on me, giving me confidence. 

"Now he is counting on me for this adventure, so he has undoubtedly been an important figure in my career.

"I know him and how he trains, so it's easier for me to adapt. I know what he expects of me after working together for a long time.

"Even with him on the bench it will obviously not be easy, but without him it would have been different."

Depay has been labelled a "rebellious" figure during his career to date but, citing comparisons to former Barca player Luis Suarez, is not fazed by that tag.

"I think 'rebellious' is often used as a negative, but sometimes you can use it as a good thing," he said. 

"Sometimes if you are rebellious on the field it can give you something extra and help you win the game. 

"For example, Luis Suarez has won many games and scored many goals without being the nicest and sweetest person in the world. 

"Maybe because of my appearance people may think that I am a rebellious boy. When you meet me, you see that I am a normal guy, like any other person. 

"Maybe I'm a little different because of the way I express myself, how I make music. I may be more misunderstood for that. 

"But boy, I don't mind being called a rebel. People have a feeling about me that may either be very good or they may not like. 

"The truth is that everyone is free to create their own opinion, their image."

New Barcelona signing Memphis Depay is relishing the chance to link up with Lionel Messi, who he believes showed at the Copa America why he is still the world's best player.

Netherlands international Depay joined Barca as a free agent when his Lyon contract expired on July 1 and was officially unveiled at Camp Nou on Thursday.

While the 27-year-old is excited to begin a new chapter in his career at Barca, club legend Messi's future is less clear as he has yet to sign a new deal and is now a free agent.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is reportedly close to agreeing a long-term contract with the Spanish giants that will keep him tied down to the club until 2026.

Messi is currently on an extended break after inspiring Argentina to their first Copa America crown since 1993 earlier this month.

He scored four goals and provided five assists to win the Golden Boot and his maiden piece of silverware while representing his country at senior level.

Depay is hopeful Messi will soon put pen to paper so he can fulfil a dream of playing alongside the superstar forward.

"He is a legend and the best player in the world," Depay said at his unveiling. "Did you see what he did in the Copa America?

"I really want to play with Leo. His qualities with the ball are undeniable. As long as I make the runs, I know the ball will come. I am a great fan of his.

"Yesterday I had a tour of the museum and saw all of the Ballon d'Or awards he has won. He probably has another one coming, too. It's going to be a dream for me."

 

After a short break following the Netherlands' last-16 exit to the Czech Republic at Euro 2020 last month, Depay arrived in Catalonia on Monday to begin pre-season training.

The Dutchman got his career back on track at Lyon following a disappointing spell with Manchester United, scoring 76 goals in 178 appearances for the Ligue 1 side.

He enjoyed an impressive final season in the French top flight with 20 goals, trailing only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27).

The former PSV youth product's 12 assists and 94 chances created, meanwhile, were more than any other player managed in Ligue 1 in 2020-21.

After months of drawn-out speculation, Depay is pleased to have finally completed a switch to Barcelona this month.

"It's an honour to be here, a dream come true," he said. "Since I was little I dreamed of it. The conversations have been long, but the will has always been there.

"At last I am here. Everyone who is present knows the importance of the club around the world, of how great it is and the impact it has.

"At 27 years of age achieving my dream is surprising and fantastic. I really want to start playing. 

"The team is ready for the new season, we are rested and the time has come to go back to work and pick up trophies."

Koeman previously managed Depay while in charge of the Netherlands, but the former Man Utd attacker insists his compatriot was not a deciding factor in leaving Lyon for Barca.

"I would have come even if he was not here because you don't say no to Barca," he said. "I would have come anyway, but it is also true that the coach has had a great impact. 

"I know him well. He played me as a forward with the national team. He has made me feel comfortable because I started playing better."

Depay is one of three free agents to have joined the cash-strapped Catalans this window, along with former Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

Asked if he is concerned by Barca's financial problems, which have not been helped by the coronavirus pandemic, Depay said: "No. I am focused only on the game. 

"I cannot focus on that. The business part is something the president [Joan Laporta] and the board will take care of. When fans are back in the stadium the situation will improve."

Ronald Koeman was left feeling positive for the future after Barcelona kicked off their pre-season campaign with a hard-fought 4-0 win over 10-man Gimnastic at the Estadi Johan Cruyff.

Albania striker Rey Manaj, who has never played a competitive game for Barca and is expected to move on this window, scored a second-half hat-trick in Wednesday's friendly in front of around 2,000 supporters.

Alex Collado netted the other goal for Barcelona, but the game was not as one-sided as the scoreline suggests as three of the four goals were scored in the final five minutes.

Koeman named a different line-up in each half, with the likes of Sergino Dest, Gerard Pique, Miralem Pjanic, Sergi Roberto, Riqui Puig and Samuel Umtiti starting the game.

New signing Yusuf Demir, brought in on an initial loan from Rapid Vienna and described as the 'Austrian Messi' for his playing style, also played his first 45 minutes for the Catalan giants.

The second half saw a far more inexperienced side fielded and contained just one player, goalscorer Collado, with a competitive appearance for Barca under his belt.

Manaj stole the show with his three goals, the pick of those an angled finish into the roof of the net as Gimnastic, who had Alex Quintanilla sent off in the first half, started to tire.

Without Lionel Messi as the superstar forward delays signing a new contract, as well as new signings Eric Garcia, Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay, Koeman was pleased with what he saw.

"The important thing is that everyone has played 45 minutes; it is something important for the physical side of things," he told Barca TV. 

"We dominated and we got a good result. The game leaves positive feelings.

"My players have returned well. They also trained hard this morning – it's all about getting fit. With two different teams, everyone has had a chance to show their quality.

"It goes without saying that there are certain names that stood out."

Following a season played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday's game marked the first time Koeman has managed Barca in front of a home crowd.

"It was strange having people here, but thank goodness they were here," the Dutchman said. 

"I love that there is an audience and also the players do too. They helped us. We really needed it."

Barca have tougher tests to come than third-tier Gimnastic, with Girona up next on Saturday before facing Stuttgart and Salzburg in Germany and Austria respectively.

"On Saturday we will have more players available," Koeman added. "We have a little time now to train all together. 

"In Germany we will have good games, against high-level rivals, where we can draw good conclusions."

Ronald Koeman believes Spain should have given Barcelona teenager Pedri a rest rather than call him up for the Olympic Games.

The midfielder was a key part of the Spain squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020, becoming the first ever player to start six games in a single European Championship or World Cup aged 18 or below.

Instead of being given time off before the start of Barcelona's LaLiga campaign, Pedri is in Japan for the Olympic football tournament.

Spain play their first game in Group C against Egypt on July 22 before fixtures with Argentina and Australia.

Koeman told a media conference: "Pedri has played a lot. We will have to give him a break, everyone needs it during the [European] summer. 

"As Pep Guardiola said, playing two important tournaments in the summer is too much, but we can't do anything. 

"Pedri's European Championship was phenomenal. At the age of 18 he has played almost all the complete matches, with an impressive maturity. 

"His football continues to improve and he is a very honest and calm boy. He lives for football. He is an example of how to be a young man at Barca.

"It is important for our grassroots football, that young people see that they are in a club that gives them opportunities."

 

Also in Spain's squad for the tournament is defender Eric Garcia, who re-joined Barca from Manchester City on a free transfer.

Koeman tipped the 20-year-old former Barca academy player to have a big impact on the first team when he is able to link up with the club following the Olympics.

"He has had a great European Championship," Koeman said. 

"He comes from here and, despite his youth, he already has a lot of experience. He plays in the same position I did. 

"With the ball he is very good and we can improve from behind with him. He also has projection and a great future ahead."

Meanwhile, Koeman hopes Ousmane Dembele can make a swift return from injury.

The France forward, whose contract at Camp Nou expires at the end of the 2021-22 season, is recovering from surgery on a knee injury sustained at Euro 2020 that is expected to keep him out for four months.

Dembele's career since his move to Barca from Borussia Dortmund for €105million four years ago has been blighted by injury setbacks.

The 24-year-old has managed just 54 LaLiga starts in four seasons at Camp Nou, while last season he completed 90 minutes in the league on just five occasions.

"I am very disappointed with his injury," Koeman added.

"Also, the situation with his contract is complicated. It is a pity for himself and for us. 

"He brought us a lot last year, different from what we have. I hope he can come back soon."

Ronald Koeman has warned Barcelona's rivals a rejuvenated and focused Lionel Messi will have a massive impact in the forthcoming season.

Messi is technically still a free agent after his contract with the Blaugrana expired at midnight on June 30, but it has been widely reported the 34-year-old is poised to sign a new five-year deal at Camp Nou.

Messi was again hugely influential for Barcelona last season, finishing as LaLiga's top scorer and managing 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

He also created 117 chances for others and netted a goal every 110.32 minutes over the course of 2020-21. 

The Argentina international is expected to take a substantial pay cut to stay at Barca but Koeman does not expect his influence to diminish.

"Messi is very important, he is the captain of the team and an example," head coach Koeman told a media conference on Sunday.

"After a difficult start due to his own situation, his effectiveness was enormous [in 2020-21].

"He really wanted to win the Copa America and, as he is the best player in the world, he is used to winning things. For me, he is the big favourite to win the Ballon d'Or."

 

Koeman claimed the presence of Messi and other experienced players will bring balance to Barca in the new campaign.

"The veteran players have a place in the squad," Koeman explained.

"They already showed it last year and it is important that they be with us. In a club like Barca, the balance between the oldest and the youngest must exist."

Koeman has taken some of the attacking burden of Messi shoulders with the signings of Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero on free transfers.

Depay enjoyed a fine final season in Ligue 1, scoring 20 times, trailing only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27), while his 12 assists and 94 chances created were the most in France's top flight.

Aguero scored a club-record 260 goals in 389 appearances in all competitions during a glittering decade with Manchester City.

"I know Memphis very well and he knows how to work," Koeman added.

"He has a lot of character, physicality, speed, he can play in different positions in attack. He's the perfect age to show it.

"With Sergio, we had to improve our performance at the top and he is a very experienced and dangerous player in the penalty area. 

"The important thing is that he is physically well and our goal is to keep him in top form."

Barcelona know their opponents for the 2020-21 LaLiga season but remain unsure whether Lionel Messi will be around for their opener against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Messi, who is currently in action for Argentina at the Copa America, will see his Barca contract expire at midnight CET on Wednesday, with no news of any agreement on an extension at this stage.

Ronald Koeman will still be in situ as head coach and must tackle back-to-back Basque encounters, with a trip to Athletic Bilbao the first match of the campaign on the road for new additions Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Emerson and Eric Garcia.

Sevilla away marks the Blaugrana's first September fixture as they continue a tricky start, while a daunting October schedule features Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano on October 3, three weeks before the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou.

The return against Madrid comes on March 20, with champions Atletico in Catalonia on February 6. Last season, Barcelona took a solitary point from four matches against their fellow heavyweights.

They will need to improve upon that return if they are to make the most of a May run-in of Real Mallorca, Real Betis, Celta Vigo, Getafe and Villarreal.

Barcelona's 2021-22 LaLiga fixtures in full:

15/08/2021 – Real Sociedad (h)
22/08/2021 – Athletic Bilbao (a)
29/08/2021 – Getafe (h)
12/09/2021 – Sevilla (a)
19/09/2021 – Granada (h)
22/09/2021 – Cadiz (a)
26/09/2021 – Levante (h)
03/10/2021 – Atletico Madrid (a)
17/10/2021 – Valencia (h)
24/10/2021 – Real Madrid (h)
27/10/2021 – Rayo Vallecano (a)
31/10/2021 – Deportivo Alaves (h)
07/11/2021 – Celta Vigo (a)
21/11/2021 – Espanyol (h)
28/11/2021 – Villarreal (a)
05/12/2021 – Real Betis (h)
12/12/2021 – Osasuna (a)
19/12/2021 – Elche (h)
02/01/2022 – Real Mallorca (a)
09/01/2022 – Granada (a)
19/01/2022 – Rayo Vallecano (h)
23/01/2022 – Deportivo Alaves (a)
06/02/2022 – Atletico Madrid (h)
13/02/2022 – Espanyol (a)
20/02/2022 – Valencia (a)
27/02/2022 – Athletic Club (h)
06/03/2022 – Elche (a)
13/03/2022 – Osasuna (h)
20/03/2022 – Real Madrid (a)
03/04/2022 – Sevilla (h)
10/04/2022 – Levante (a)
17/04/2022 – Cadiz (h)
20/04/2022 – Real Sociedad (a)
01/05/2022 – Real Mallorca (h)
08/05/2022 – Real Betis (a)
11/05/2022 – Celta Vigo (h)
15/05/2022 – Getafe (a)
22/05/2022 – Villarreal (h)

Jordi Alba is adamant Ronald Koeman deserves at least another season at Barcelona after president Joan Laporta confirmed the Dutchman will be in charge for 2021-22.

Koeman was appointed last August as Quique Setien's successor following a crushing end to 2019-20, which saw Barca demolished 8-2 in the Champions League, the first time they had conceded so many goals in one game since 1946.

After a shaky start to 2020-21, Koeman eventually got Barca looking capable of challenging for the league title as he got the best out of Lionel Messi, who scored 30 league goals to win an eighth Pichichi trophy of his career.

While Barca did go on to win the Copa del Rey, their challenge to Atletico Madrid wilted in the final weeks of the season and they ultimately finished third.

Their tally of 79 points was 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).

With Atletico winning the title and Real Madrid doing so the previous year, it meant Barca have failed to win LaLiga in two successive seasons for the first time since 2008.

Perhaps it was unsurprising to see Koeman's future come under so much scrutiny, but after several weeks of uncertainty – what Laporta called a "reflection period" – the club eventually opted to keep Koeman, which was the right decision in the eyes of Alba.

Speaking to Radio Marca, Alba said: "Ronald has done a great job since he arrived.

"We had been improving throughout the season and he deserved to continue at the club."

The left-back, who is currently away preparing for Euro 2020 with Spain, also saluted Barca's early dealings in the transfer market, with Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia – a national team colleague of Alba – arriving on free transfers from Manchester City.

"The arrivals of Aguero and Eric Garcia seem very good to me," he added. "We already knew Kun [Aguero] in football terms and they [those in the team who know him] have spoken very well of him to me from a human perspective.

"And Eric is a humble boy who wants to learn, and it is good that people from La Masia come back. In the Spain squad we have already seen his quality."

The 12-month delay to Euro 2020 has provided an easy angle for debate ahead of the finals this week.

Which teams might have benefited from the postponement? Italy are back in the groove, Spain were surely buoyed by a 6-0 win over Germany, and England continue to develop exciting young talents.

It works both ways, though, as Germany might have preferred the tournament to go ahead in 2020, prior to their heaviest competitive defeat and before Joachim Low confirmed his exit plans.

Meanwhile, neither situation necessarily suits the Netherlands.

The Oranje have a youthful, talented, newly settled side, but there is the suspicion they have already peaked.

Ronald Koeman, appointed in February 2018, had the Netherlands playing some thrilling, effective football in his first 18 months in charge, narrowly losing the showpiece match at the Nations League Finals while easing to Euros qualification.

Since then, the coach has departed, a number of his young charges have seen their careers stall somewhat and Virgil van Dijk, the team's standout star, has been ruled out by injury.

It means there is plenty of scepticism as Frank de Boer leads the Dutch into their first major tournament in seven years.

 

COACH ACCUSTOMED TO CRITICISM

Koeman left the national team to be appointed by Barcelona. It is highly unlikely De Boer could walk into such a role regardless of his success with the Netherlands.

Since leaving Ajax as a four-time Eredivisie champion in 2016, the coach has endured short, miserable stints with Inter, Crystal Palace and Atlanta United.

De Boer won just 36.4 per cent of his Serie A games, the second-worst rate of an Inter boss this century.

Only Gian Piero Gasperini was less impressive as he went winless, an unfortunate feat De Boer would repeat at Palace as the Eagles did not even score or earn a point in his four Premier League outings.

Atlanta faded from MLS Cup champions to also-rans under De Boer, too, before he was handed an unlikely Oranje opportunity, only to go four without a win at the start of his tenure.

The Netherlands' fortunes have since improved, winning five of seven – albeit while losing a key World Cup qualifier in Turkey and scraping to a friendly draw against Scotland.

Off-field faux pas have also persisted, including media conference mix-ups involving Queensy Menig and Donny van de Beek while Jasper Cillessen was controversially cut from the Euros squad following a positive COVID-19 test.

"It seems clear that things need to get better," De Boer acknowledged after the Scotland game, although he was more optimistic in the aftermath of a subsequent 3-0 win against Georgia.

Having made only two changes to his 5-3-2 line-up – one in goal, the other enforced by injury – De Boer declared: "We're ready."

 

YOUNG STARS' STUNTED PROGRESS

Six players who started the Nations League Finals matches should make De Boer's XI for the Ukraine game, but these stars are not necessarily in the same shape as they were in 2019.

Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind and Frenkie de Jong were all coming off an outstanding campaign with Ajax in which they reached the Champions League last four, swatting aside Real Madrid and Juventus on their way before coming within seconds of the final.

Van de Beek, called from the bench against England, was also part of that superb club side.

While Blind remains in Amsterdam and will surely now only start if De Ligt is injured – as he was against Georgia – the other three, who should fit well within De Boer's fluid formation, moved on with mixed success.

De Ligt's first season with Juve was tough, including two errors that led to shots (including one to a goal) and three penalties conceded, before he improved in 2020-21.

De Jong followed a similar path of slow progress at Barca, the highlight of his Camp Nou career so far – now under Koeman – a goal and two assists in April's Copa del Rey final.

That single-game contribution matched Van de Beek's meagre haul for his entire debut season at Manchester United, concerningly. A year behind his two younger international team-mates, the midfielder joined United in 2020 and his three goal involvements came across 36 games but just 15 starts.

Van de Beek's season has ended in miserable fashion, forced to withdraw from the Euros squad this week. Far from a regular at international level, too, this might be a bigger setback for the player than for the Netherlands.

 

DETERMINED TO MAKE THEIR MARK

The absence of Van Dijk means the other Ajax graduates unquestionably maintain key roles in the defensive third, but the Netherlands are relying on older heads in attack, even if they are without the sort of superstar Dutch forward of years past.

This country once had Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy born on the same day; now they rely on a midfielder and a converted winger for their goals.

It was effective in qualifying, though. Georginio Wijnaldum, 30, was their leading marksman with eight, while Memphis Depay, 27, either scored or assisted every 38 minutes – six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes the best rate among the 54 players to have five or more goal involvements.

Depay netted twice against Scotland and once against Georgia, along with an assist, and will be eager to establish himself on the European stage.

The Barca-linked Lyon forward was an under-19 international when the Netherlands last appeared at the European Championship in 2012, while he made only a single start at the World Cup two years later.

Wijnaldum was at least a regular at Brazil 2014, scoring in the third-place play-off, but both he and Depay have been robbed of a huge chunk of their major tournament careers by the team's failings.

Even with a kind group-stage draw, as they chase a first Euros win since the first round in 2008, the Oranje will need Wijnaldum and Depay to deliver. Neither should be lacking motivation.

Pep Guardiola believes Ronald Koeman deserves to stay on as Barcelona boss for another season.

Koeman admitted it was a relief to see speculation over his future as Barca head coach ended last week when president Joan Laporta confirmed he would remain in charge for the 2021-22 season.

It followed a period where Laporta sought out other potential candidates while Koeman remained in his post, with some controversy when the president was criticised by the head coach's representatives for comments about his health.

The Dutchman led Barca to Copa del Rey glory last season, though fell short in LaLiga and the Champions League, having taken over at a turbulent period that saw Lionel Messi request to leave following a fallout with former president Josep Maria Bartomeu and Luis Suarez controversially sold to eventual champions Atletico Madrid.

Former Barca team-mates Koeman and Guardiola were golfing together with their sons last week, with the Manchester City boss thrilled at Laporta's decision.

"Koeman is the ideal coach for next season, I spoke to Laporta and I am very happy the president is convinced," Guardiola said to Cadena SER.

"I am a good friend of Ronald. It has been a difficult year for everyone and Ronald deserves one more year, with people in the stadium. 

"Besides, second years are always better.

"At times the team has played very well, they are among those who played better football in Spain.

"They fell at the end when he was close to winning and Atletico won the league, but he won the cup and in general were very good."

Guardiola was one of the names briefly connected with the Camp Nou post when Laporta referenced his dream to bring the Catalan back to the club he coached so successfully from 2008 to 2012.

"I have a two-year contract at Manchester, I'm happy and so it will continue to be," said Guardiola.

He recently saw one of his top young prospects and an experienced stalwart swap City for Barca after the Catalans signed Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero on free transfers.

Guardiola had warm words for both players, predicting Garcia to become a future Camp Nou star.

"Aguero and Eric Garcia are two great signings - Kun is a scorer," said Guardiola. 

"With Eric I will tell Koeman that he has a spectacular fit, he is a good guy, really intelligent. He will be one of the captains of the next decade."

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.

Jordi Cruyff will take up a "strategic role" in Barcelona's hierarchy from the start of August, the club have confirmed.

Cruyff had been linked with a high-profile position in the club's organisational structure for many months, with his name routinely mentioned alongside Joan Laporta's ever since Barcelona's presidential election campaigns began.

The Dutchman, son of Barca icon Johan Cruyff, has been in charge at Chinese Super League side Shenzhen since last August and was seemingly unable to get out of his contract in March when links to the Camp Nou were at their strongest.

However, Barca outlined that his move to the club has been finalised for August, a deal that has been "possible thanks to the collaboration of the Chinese team", its ownership group and president despite Cruyff's contract running beyond the end of the CSL season.

A Barca statement on Thursday read: "FC Barcelona announces that Jordi Cruyff will join the football area of the club and form part of the new organisational structure as of August 1.

"Jordi Cruyff, who was a player in Barca's youth teams and in the Barca first team from 1993 to 1996, returns in a strategic role.

"His arrival has been possible thanks to the collaboration of the Chinese team, Shenzhen FC, whom he joined as coach in 2020, the Kaisa group and the president of the Chinese team, Kwok Ying Shing. 

"All played a decisive role in facilitating his departure to FC Barcelona, despite still having a contract in force, and we will therefore be happy to seek future possibilities of collaboration."

It is unclear precisely what Cruyff's job title will be, with Ramon Planes currently installed as the club's technical secretary and Mateu Alemany recently hired as their new director of football.

However, his hiring will be seen as a smart move by Laporta given Cruyff's experience in managerial and directorial positions at other clubs, not to mention his family history at Camp Nou.

It remains to be seen how his hiring goes down with incumbent head coach Ronald Koeman, though.

Speculation regarding the sacking of Koeman has been rife, and the hiring of his countryman Cruyff into an unspecified hierarchical position could sit uneasy with the former Netherlands boss, particularly given he has been regarded as one of the candidates most likely to replace him.

Memphis Depay hopes Barcelona keep faith with Ronald Koeman as president Joan Laporta scours for a superior alternative.

It appeared certain, until recent developments, that Depay and former Netherlands boss Koeman would be reunited at Barcelona in the coming weeks, but now it is unclear whether either will start the season with the Catalan giants.

Depay has looked destined to arrive as a free agent after deciding to leave Lyon, while Koeman was chasing a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double until Barcelona's league form deserted them in the closing weeks of the season.

Now Laporta is assessing whether there is a better coaching option available to Barcelona for the new campaign, at the same time as keeping Koeman on in the event he cannot find a more accomplished boss. Reports have even suggested Laporta would like to bring Pep Guardiola back to the club, which on the face of it looks highly unlikely.

Depay says his own prospects of a move to Barcelona do not hinge on Koeman being the man in charge.

"I don't think that matters if a club like Barcelona is interested," said Depay. "It's a fantastic club, but there are more great clubs.

"Regardless of where I go, I would like it if Koeman stays there. For himself anyway."

Laporta indicated on Friday that Barcelona would begin to announce new signings over the coming week, and Depay confirmed in his interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS that "interest is there".

He is with the Netherlands squad that is preparing for Euro 2020, having qualified under the guidance of Koeman before he was tempted away by Barcelona last August.

Frank de Boer now holds Koeman's old job and Depay promised to have "100 per cent focus" on national team duties, with a June 2 warm-up game against Scotland coming up.

Depay scored 22 goals in 40 games across all competitions for Lyon in the season just ended, at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, his second best rate since joining the French club in January 2017 from Manchester United.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38 and also had 12 assists, down on his 2017-18 best of 17 for the club but still immensely useful. Of all players from Ligue 1, only Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria beat that assists total, setting up 15 goals.

For those reasons, it is easy to see why Koeman would want him, but if a contract is not inked then any incoming Barcelona coach may take a different view.

Only Lionel Messi (38) beat Depay's goals haul in 2020-21 among current Barca players, and only Jordi Alba (13) had more assists.

Going into the Euros, Depay stands to be prominent for the Dutch, who last won the European Championship in 1988, when Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, along with the likes of Koeman, made them a devastating side.

Koeman more recently lifted the gloom surrounding the national team, after they shockingly failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

"You see, as has already been shown in the past, that the Netherlands can go a long way. We want to do that again," Depay said. "I think this team can do a lot.

"We are finally back and everyone is super happy about that. But now it is time to show why we are there."

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."

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