Ronald Koeman has escaped the Barcelona axe with club president Joan Laporta announcing on Thursday the Dutchman is to continue as coach next season.
“We’ve decided to give continuity to a contract already in place,” Laporta confirmed after a meeting of the club’s directors.
Koeman’s confirmation comes after the Catalan press had hinted that winning round Lionel Messi as well as lifting the Copa del Rey and overseeing a year of transition may not have been enough for him to keep his job.
Laporta explained: “We think it’s the best for Barca and we are very happy to be able to announce today that Ronald Koeman is staying.”
He said “very frank and straight” conversations had taken place before committing to Koeman until the summer of 2022.
“This time for reflection was necessary… to see together what didn’t work at the end of last season”.
Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona’s final La Liga game of the season against Eibar on Saturday in order to “enjoy a rest” before the Copa America, the club announced.
The Argentine, who is still in contract negotiations with Barcelona, was given permission to miss training on Friday by coach Ronald Koeman and, with the club now out of the title race, will not play in the away fixture against Eibar.
“The striker can enjoy a rest before next month’s Copa America after a season in which he is one of the players in the squad who has played most,” Barcelona said in a statement.
The 33-year-old has already played 47 matches this season for Barca, scoring 38 goals, but his future at the club remains in doubt as he has been linked with a move to Manchester City where he could join up with former coach Pep Guardiola.
Barcelona’s defeat by Celta Vigo on Sunday leaves them third in La Liga, seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and only two ahead of fourth-placed Sevilla.
The Copa America, which was postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus, begins in Argentina on June 13 with the final on July 10.
The event was due to be co-hosted with Colombia but civil unrest there, which has resulted in 42 deaths, has led to all games being moved to Argentina.
Asisat Oshoala has made history as the first African to lift the UEFA Women’s Champions League with club giants Barcelona.
The Catalonian side broke a 13-year dominance by French and German Champions League winners since Arsenal lifted the trophy in 2007.
Booming with some level of confidence after their triumph at Women’s Super League last week, the Spanish champions totally outclassed their English opponents by putting 4 goals past Mušović to record their first Champions League victory.
The 26-year-old who was recovering from an injury was introduced in the 71st minute and almost got her name on the score sheet but for the referee to rule out the goal for offside.
Goals from Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmati, and Hansen and an own goal from Melanie Leupolz’s confirmed the Spanish champions’ superiority all before the break.
Oshoala was instrumental in her side’s progression to the latter stages of the competition by registering goals against PSV and Fortuna Hjørring in the earlier stages.
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid knew victory could fire them towards the La Liga title but Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Camp Nou handed Real Madrid the chance to go top.
Four wins from their last four games will now be enough for Zinedine Zidane’s side to retain their La Liga crown, with a crunch game at home to fourth-placed Sevilla up first on Sunday.
The first part of a blockbuster weekend in the Spanish title race pitched first against third but neither could take a decisive step forward, despite the best attempts of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who faced each other for the first time since Suarez departed last summer.
A point each leaves Atletico three points clear of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand and also the superior head-to-head over both Atleti and Barcelona.
Barca remain two points off the top but their chances took the biggest hit, given they now need both Atletico and Real Madrid to slip up in the final stretch.
Yet Atletico will be disappointed too, given they spurned a number of chances in during a dominant first half, before Ronald Koeman’s side recovered in the second.
Jan Oblak had to deny Messi after a vintage run forward from the Argentine, who then had a well-placed free-kick in the last minute, only for Atletico to watch the ball spin inches wide.
Diego Simeone said on Friday Suarez had been “vindicated” since being forced to leave Barcelona, his 19 goals making him top scorer for the team.
Koeman admitted it would be “strange” for everyone, including Messi, who sent a heartfelt open letter to his former team-mate, neighbour and best friend last year.
Suarez ‘always welcome’
The pair shared a few words in the centre circle before kick-off after the Camp Nou stadium announcer had already beamed that Suarez “will always be welcome”.
But, in truth, the Uruguayan was not at his ruthless best as a handful of openings went unconverted in a contest full of chances but that lacked precision when it mattered most.
Messi was repeatedly knocked over in the opening few minutes before Gerard Pique went through the back of Suarez, both teams scrapping for control.
Atletico slowly took charge, helped by the departure of Sergio Busquets, who was replaced by Ilaix Moriba after a clash of heads that meant he had to be taken to hospital for tests.
Without Busquets, Barcelona were rudderless for a while and the Atletico chances came thick and fast.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to palm away Marcos Llorente’s shot and then stick out a foot to deny Suarez from the angle.
Suarez then tried to nod in the rebound after a winding run from Yannick Carrasco before claiming a penalty after feeling a flick of Ter Stegen’s hand across his head.
Barcelona were rattled, the usually steady Ter Stegen booting one ball straight into the stands, only for Messi to give Atletico a reality check, his driving run past six chasers opening the space for a shot, but Oblak tipped it wide.
Felipe fired over from a well-worked Atleti short corner before half-time but Barca were better after the break, with both Ilaix and Pique going close shortly after the hour.
Both coaches made changes, hoping to inspire a winner. Ousmane Dembele was one of them and he should have grabbed it with six minutes left but headed over from six yards in perhaps the best chance of the game.
Messi could have won it at the end, standing over the ball with a free-kick placed centrally and 25 yards out. Atletico held their breath, the ball whistling just wide of Oblak’s post.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus on Saturday defended the aborted Super League project after the nine other clubs were given a financial penalty by UEFA for their involvement.
The three clubs said they had received “unacceptable” threats from UEFA and FIFA since the project collapsed just two days after it was announced last month, when six Premier League clubs and three other teams pulled out.
In a joint statement, Real, Barcelona and Juventus said the Super League had been launched “with the aim of providing solutions to the current unsustainable situation in the football industry”.
They argued that they and the nine clubs who withdrew under pressure from supporters’ protests — Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, and AC Milan — “shared the same concerns… that structural reforms are indispensable to ensure our sport stays appealing and survives in the long term”.
Those nine clubs on Friday agreed to forego five percent of their revenue from UEFA competitions for one season and between them make a 15-million-euro ($18.25 million) donation to support grassroots and youth football in Europe.
They also committed to participating in UEFA competitions for which they qualify and agreed to pay fines of 100 million euros if they ever seek to play in an “unauthorised” competition.
Real, Barcelona, and Juventus said: “We regret to see that our friends and founding partners of the Super League project have now found themselves in such an inconsistent and contradictory position when signing a number of commitments to UEFA yesterday.”
UEFA said it would take “appropriate action” against the three clubs who still support the Super League project.
The clubs responded that “the founding clubs have suffered, and continue to suffer, unacceptable third-party pressures (and) threats.”
Pernille Harder scored a key late goal and Fran Kirby netted twice as Chelsea overturned a 2-1 first-leg deficit with a 4-1 victory over Bayern Munich on Sunday to set up a Women’s Champions League final against Barcelona.
England international Kirby gave Chelsea the lead on 11 minutes at Kingsmeadow, finishing off a move she began inside her own half after combining smartly with Australia forward Sam Kerr.
Sarah Zadrazil equalised with a thunderous, dipping shot from distance that clipped the underside of the bar on its way in as Bayern regained the upper hand in the tie.
Ji So-yun gave Chelsea a 2-1 advantage just before half-time, steering low into the corner past an unsighted Laura Benkarth after smacking her initial free-kick against the wall.
Danish forward Harder, who joined Chelsea at the start of the season for a reported world-record transfer fee, grabbed the decisive goal on 84 minutes as she glanced in a header from Jessica Carter’s free-kick.
Real Madrid climbed to the top of La Liga on Saturday after Karim Benzema’s flicked finish helped them claim a thrilling 2-1 victory over Barcelona in a wild Clasico at Valdebebas.
Benzema’s superb piece of skill and a deflected Toni Kroos free-kick put Madrid in charge and while Oscar Mingueza pulled one back for Barca, they fell to defeat in what could be Lionel Messi’s final appearance in this fixture.
Victory means Real Madrid go level on points with Atletico, with the top three now separated by a single point.
Atletico, without the injured Luis Suarez, face Real Betis on Sunday.
With Atletico stumbling and both Barca and Real Madrid hitting their stride, this game looked set to define, if not the title, then who would become favourites to be crowned champions in May.
The result was a riveting contest at a rain-soaked Alfredo di Stefano stadium – certainly one of the most exciting Clasicos in years – that saw both teams squander numerous chances, several efforts come back off the woodwork and Casemiro sent off in extra time.
With the last play of the game, Barcelona substitute Ilaix Moriba rattled Real Madrid’s crossbar.
Casemiro’s red card had also given Messi a free-kick and the chance for a dramatic equaliser but instead the Argentinian made it seven games now without a goal against Real Madrid, with many wondering if his 45th Clasico will be his last.
Messi might yet turn the tide in the eight games still remaining but there is no doubt Madrid are in the groove after backing up beating Liverpool 3-1 on Tuesday with another crucial victory.
They can finish the job in the Champions League at Anfield next week.
A breathless first half began with chances for both sides as Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s sloppy clearance almost gave Benzema a clear run at goal before Messi slipped in Jordi Alba but the cross was intercepted by Thibaut Courtois.
Real Madrid’s opener came after a superb counter-attack from Barcelona, Messi going down too easily on the edge of the area, with Madrid pouring forward on the break.
Fede Valverde powered through midfield and fed wide to Lucas Vazquez, whose cross was expertly flicked inside the near post by Benzema.
The goal shook Barca, who were unable to restrain the speed of Madrid and particularly Vinicius Junior on the break.
Vinicius was brought down by Ronald Araujo on the edge of the area and Kroos’ free-kick cannoned off the back off Sergino Dest and in, evading the efforts of Alba to head away on the line.
Valverde and Messi both struck the post before half-time, Valverde after another scintillating Madrid counter-attack and Messi from a corner, with Courtois beaten.
Barca coach Ronald Koeman brought Antoine Griezmann on for Dest but as the rain poured down, Madrid poured forward. Kroos and Benzema both could have scored a third and they were punished for failing to capitalise.
Griezmann jumped over Alba’s cross and as the ball skidded through, Mingueza did well to shin it into the net.
Araujo deflected Vinicius’ cross onto his own post and Alba was denied by Courtois. Again, Madrid tore away, again they missed the chance, Vinicius running onto Luka Modric’s pass but opting not to shoot, allowing Araujo to clear.
With 20 minutes left, Zinedine Zidane took off Benzema, Vinicius and Kroos.
Referee Gil Manzano had to replace his equipment because of the rain. Messi changed his shirt for a dry one.
Barcelona wantd a late penalty when Ferland Mendy clipped Martin Braithwaite with his arm but the appeal was optimistic.
Casemiro was sent off in the 90th minute for a late challenge on Mingueza, that gave Messi a free-kick on the edge of the area but Courtois saved.
With Ter Stegen up and almost the last kick of the game, Ilaix rattled the crossbar. Madrid survived.
Barcelona confirmed on Thursday Gerard Pique has suffered a knee injury, with the defender facing a struggle to be fit to face Paris Saint-Germain in next week’s Champions League last 16, second leg.
Pique has just returned from three months out due to a partial cruciate ligament injury in the same right knee.
But the Spaniard’s latest problem, sustained in the Copa del Rey win over Sevilla on Wednesday night, is not thought to be as serious.
According to Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo, Pique underwent “relevant medical tests after the match and it was found that there was no serious relapse of the knee injury that forced him to be three months out”.
Pique is expected now to miss Saturday’s La Liga game at Osasuna, with the hope he might still be able to face PSG in Paris four days later. Barcelona were beaten 4-1 in the first leg last month.
A Barca statement read: “The tests carried out this morning have shown that Gerard Pique has a sprain in the internal lateral ligament of his right knee.”
Mikel Arteta says he is fully focused on doing “much better” at Arsenal after he was linked with the Barcelona manager’s job.
Reports surfaced in Spain this week claiming presidential candidate Joan Laporta was eyeing a move for Gunners boss Arteta if he won the race to return to Barca.
It was during his previous spell in the role that Laporta appointed Pep Guardiola as the head coach and ushered in an era of sustained success.
Arteta went on to work under Guardiola at Manchester City and took over as Arsenal manager in December 2019.
Having come through the famed La Masia academy at Barca, Arteta is now said to be on a managerial shortlist for Laporta, should he be elected on March 7, although sources close to the campaign have reportedly distanced themselves from a move for the 38-year-old.
“There is always going to be speculation when there are elections in Barcelona, it’s a huge team,” Arteta said on Wednesday when asked about being linked to the job, currently occupied by Ronald Koeman.
“Obviously I was raised there as a player and there are always going to be links. But I am fully focused on the job that I have to do here, which we have a lot to do, and I am really enjoying it.
“What I can tell you is I feel privileged to manage this football club and that I’m extremely happy.”
Arteta won the FA Cup during his first year in charge at the Emirates Stadium and his job title changed from head coach to manager during a reshuffle of the executive team in September.