Koeman on exit talk: ‘Fed up’ with speculation

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has said he is “fed up” with the hearsay that has surrounded Sunday’s presidential election at Camp Nou and the speculation about his job.

Koeman, 57, has a contract until 2022 at Barca but club legend Xavi Hernandez has been linked as a possible replacement for him in the summer. Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was also rumoured to be an option to take over if the Dutchman doesn’t deliver this season.

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Barca have been without a president since Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned in October, with the process to choose a successor delayed due to coronavirus restrictions in Catalonia.

However, club members will finally vote in a new president on March 7, with Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa the three candidates to make it to polling day from a field of nine.

“People and the media are interested in putting names out there and creating controversy,” Koeman said in a news conference on Friday.

“The most important thing is for me to not get annoyed by it and to focus on preparing the team for the matches we have coming up. So, it doesn’t interest me or annoy me when I hear names like Xavi and others [coming out in the media].

“Finally, a new president will be elected this weekend and he will make the decisions. We will talk. I am fed up with these types of questions and have been for a while now.

“Having a president at a club like Barcelona is so important because it’s the biggest club in the world, so it’s important for knowing the future — whether that’s dealing with my [future], the team or improving things.”

Font, one of the three candidates, initially said he wouldn’t keep Koeman on even if he won the treble this season, with Xavi his choice for the job. However, he has since backtracked on those comments.

Arteta, meanwhile, has been linked with Laporta’s campaign, although sources close to the former Barca president quickly denied the link to the Arsenal coach, who previously played for Barca’s B team, when it came out last week.

Koeman is doing his chances of staying on beyond the season no harm. Following a difficult start to the season, with problems on and off the pitch, Barca have closed the gap on league leaders Atletico Madrid to five points and came from two goals down to beat Sevilla in midweek and reach the Copa del Rey final.

“Coming back against Sevilla has boosted morale,” the Barca coach added. “The thing I am most proud of is seeing how united the players are. We’ve created a great atmosphere; you could see that in the celebrations after the game.”

Barca can temporarily cut the gap on Atletico, who play Real Madrid on Sunday, if they beat Osasuna on Saturday. They will be without defenders Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo, though, who join Philippe Coutinho, Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati on the injury list.

A chaotic week will then end with the election of a new president on Sunday as the Catalan club look to move on from the previous regime, who all three candidates said this week have “damaged the club’s image” around the world following the arrests centred around the Barcagate scandal.

Former president Bartomeu was among four people connected with the club detained on Monday facing allegations of misuse of funds and corruption. He was provisionally released on Tuesday and a date will be set for him to appear in court.