'Not The Bad Guy': Ronald Koeman Hits Back On Luis Suarez Exit At Barcelona

Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Ronald Koeman (Photo Credit: AP)

Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Ronald Koeman (Photo Credit: AP)

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said he does not care about criticisms of the board for stopping Lionel Messi from leaving while pushing out teammate and friend Luis Suarez.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman is not worried about Lionel Messi's commitment to the team despite his ongoing conflicts with the club leadership.

Koeman said Saturday that he cared about Messis proven efforts on the field and not his criticisms of the board for stopping him from leaving Barcelona while pushing out teammate and friend Luis Surez.

It is normal that a player is sad when a friend leaves, Koeman said in a conciliatory tone toward Messi, a day after the star forward went to social media to complain that Barcelonas board had not given Surez the exit he deserved.

But the most important thing for me is how Leo has trained. He has been an example for the rest in practice and in the (preseason) matches, Koeman said a day before his official debut as Barcelonas coach against Villarreal.

Surez learned of the clubs decision to get rid of him through a call from Koeman, who was hired after the team lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich to end last season. After probing a transfer with Juventus in Italy, Barcelona ended up sending Surez to Spanish league rival Atltico Madrid on Wednesday.

Koeman, however, made clear that he did not want to be considered solely responsible for the departure of the 33-year-old Surez, who left Barcelona as its third all-time leading scorer.

I must say that I look like the bad guy … That is not true, Koeman said. It was a decision of the club. The club, before I had become its coach, took some decisions. This was not my sole decision as coach; it was also the decision of the club. It is an effort to change the team. Younger players will have more opportunities.

Those younger players include new signings Francisco Trinco and Pedri, and 17-year-old Ansu Fati.

Ansu is a great talent, Koeman said about the striker who became Spains youngest all-time scorer on his debut earlier this month.

There are few players who have shown they can play for Barca. He is a player of the future.

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