Barcelona

Koeman cannot avoid Barcelona presidency talk as he attempts to focus players

Ronald Koeman's Barcelona future could hinge on the outcome of the battle for the club's presidency, so staying focused is a challenge.

Koeman cannot avoid Barcelona presidency talk as he attempts to focus players

Ronald Koeman vowed he would not let Barcelona's club elections distract him from the challenge of winning trophies at Camp Nou.

The Dutchman walked into a club in crisis in August when he left the Netherlands job to return to Barcelona, with whom he had already enjoyed a highly successful six-year playing spell.

It means the head coach can hardly raise any protest amid the turmoil that continues to encircle the Catalan giants, whose president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned this week.

Bartomeu's leadership was facing heavy criticism, with star man Lionel Messi so disenchanted that he attempted to leave the club during the close season.

Now several months of electioneering are firmly under way, and Koeman will be doing well if he can keep his mind away from talk of what each candidate has in mind for the future.

Font want Xavi in charge at Camp Nou

One of those who looks set to stand, Toni Freixa, has backed Koeman to continue in his post, but rival Victor Font has made no secret of his intention to appoint Xavi in a senior capacity, and also floated the idea of Pep Guardiola returning.

Asked about Freixa's comments and his own future, Koeman said in a news conference on Friday: "I don't like to speak individually about the candidates, we'll see what can happen. My job is not to be happy or unhappy if someone wants to change things or not.

"I am here for the club and to win things and the most important thing is to win tomorrow."

Koeman's Barcelona travel to face Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, having won 5-0 at Mendizorrotza in their final LaLiga game of last season, by which time Real Madrid had eclipsed them to land the title.

They were under the charge of Quique Setien for that game, which saw Lionel Messi score twice and provide an assist.

Messi has struck 10 times in his nine LaLiga games against Alaves, as if his value to Barcelona needed any fresh emphasising.

Barcelona have won their past seven LaLiga meetings with Alaves, keeping a clean sheet in five of those and scoring an average of 3.4 goals per game.

They were last beaten by the Vitoria-Gasteiz side in September 2016, slipping to a 2-1 defeat that day as coach Luis Enrique began the game with Messi and Luis Suarez on the bench.

This time Barcelona are looking to bounce back from two successive LaLiga defeats, to Getafe and Madrid, having not lost three in a row in the league since April 2016 – another low point in the Luis Enrique era.

Important victory in Turin

At least a midweek Champions League win over Juventus showed Barcelona are capable of finding focus amid the circus that surrounds them.

The players do not appear nearly as vulnerable as Koeman to regime change, yet there will be a sense of relief when the focus can all be directed towards matters on the pitch.

Questions about the presidency will keep coming for Koeman, who stressed on Friday: "It is not in my hands. I am a coach of this club and I work hard to move the team forward, achieve good results and win titles.

"It is what the coach and the players have to do. I am not nervous and I am involved in my work. That's how it is.

"From today until the elections there are candidates who will speak, who say things about their projects, and we will see who will be the president in the future."