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Where would Barça be without patient saint Koeman?


I view Ronald Koeman with a mixture of admiration and pity. While everything is falling apart at the seams at Barça, he tries to maintain some kind of order while faced with untold difficulties. Laporta is a sweet talker, he can persuade people into anything but Barça need more than empty words right now. Things haven’t worked out as he imagined, he has only sold the players who had been transfer-listed last season; Messi has scarpered and Ilaix, the most recent promise to come up from the youth academy, is torn between remaining as a substitute in the Under-19s (bullying is not pleasant but somehow it is still perceived as being normal in football) or leaving to join Tottenham, which the club wants, or Leipzig, which is what the player and his agents are keen on. He’s at his wits end.

Koeman's sadness at Ilaix situation

That must be very painful to watch for Koeman, who brought the kid into the first team last season where he excelled. Now the club are complaining that he has got too big for his boots, that he is asking for too much. There have been claims he wants 6 million euros, after tax. You can see his point when someone like Pjanic for example, who is not even in the starting XI is earning 15 million. But the club has decided to tighten their purse strings just as Ilaix is emerging and are using him as an example of their new, self-imposed austerity. Koeman has asked the club to sign a midfielder only to be told he can’t have one because it would be more expensive than handing Ilaix a new deal - and less secure. Koeman has also requested a centre-forward because Braithwaite, for all his hard work, isn’t up to scratch. He does what he can, that can’t be denied, but…

Dealing with the fans and the media

Koeman’s credentials have gone up because of Memphis, who he pushed to sign last season when we still knew him as Depay. His game is spectacular and productive and generates enthusiasm - that’s really good news for the fans who have yet to fill Camp Nou to capacity. Those that do turn up to watch the team show their nostalgia for Messi and whistle Griezmann and Umtiti. And in the middle of it all, Koeman continues trawling through the youth teams to unearth new talent and giving explanations in every press conference with the patience of a saint. Thank heavens he is still there. Whenever I think that Laporta was close to kicking him out, I wonder where Barça would be without him.