BARCELONA

Koeman defends first season in charge of Barcelona: "You can't ask for a double every year"

Barcelona finished in their lowest LaLiga position since 2007-08, but Ronald Koeman has defended his first campaign at Camp Nou.

Koeman defends his first season in charge of Barcelona: 'You cannot ask for two trophies every year'

Ronald Koeman believes his first campaign in charge of Barcelona can be considered a positive one and is confident he will still be in charge next season.

Barca beat Eibar 1-0 in their final LaLiga game of the campaign on Saturday to finish third, five points behind Real Madrid and seven adrift of champions Atlético Madrid.

The Catalans also exited the Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain at the last-16 stage, as well as losing to Athletic Bilbao in January's Spanish Super Cup.

Koeman: "Hopes were too high during the season"

Koeman's side did exact revenge by beating Athletic in last month's Copa del Rey final, though, and the Dutchman feels that trophy has salvaged this season.

"We have won many points in the league since the start of 2021 and won the cup in a brilliant way," Koeman said after the late win at Ipurua.

"We were unable to take advantage at the top of the table when we could have and we must learn from that.

"If you'd told me in August we'd win a trophy and be fighting for LaLiga with two or three games to go, I would sign for it

"Hopes were too high during the season – that's how I see it. That's why I think it's not a bad season, far from it. 

"It is not the best possible season, but you can't ask for a double every year, or from a team that is still forming."

The 79 points collected by Koeman is the fewest of any Barcelona boss in their first 38 league games since Frank Rijkaard (72) in 2003-04.

This is the first season Barça have finished outside the top two since 2007-08 and the only time they have gone successive seasons without finishing top since between 2006 and 2008.

But Koeman, who hinted at a lack of support from those above him at his pre-match news conference, insists he is still at the start of a long-term process in Catalonia despite reports suggesting he will be replaced in the close season.

"I don't think this is my last game," he said. "I have a contract and, I don't know... you talk a lot about it, but I'm calm. If the club want to change something, they must talk to me.

"From the moment I arrived, the only signing made was [Sergiño] Dest, on the last day of the window. The squad is not at the level we want to have at Barça.

"Many at the club agree with this. We are trying to improve the squad. There are older players, with all due respect, who can still give a lot.

"The younger players need to gain experience and will become better. You cannot change the squad in one season alone."

Atlético worthy title winners, says Koeman

While Barça were battling to a 1-0 win at already-relegated Eibar on Saturday, Atlético picked up the win they needed against Real Valladolid to pip Real Madrid to the title.

Atleti have led the way at the summit for 30 matchdays and Koeman says his side can have no complaints about missing out on top spot.

"Atlético deserved to win the championship," Koeman said. "They have been leaders for a while and have a very well-made squad.

"In general, they were a little better than Real Madrid and Barcelona. Congratulations to them, and nothing more."

Barça were heading for a goalless draw with Eibar before Antoine Griezmann fired in an impressive acrobatic winner nine minutes from time.

He has been directly involved in 25 goals across all competitions in 2021 – 15 goals and 10 assists – which is behind only team-mate Messi (37) and Villarreal's Gerard Moreno (30) among LaLiga players.

Barcelona "hurting" after failing to win LaLiga - Griezmann

And like his head coach, Griezmann hopes Barça can strengthen their squad during the close season.

"We are hurting after missing out on the title. We have failed in some important games and have to rest and see where we can improve for next year," he told Movistar.

"I will continue working like I have for the last two years, and the president will make his moves."