Koeman safe as Barcelona coach for now

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In an unexpected move, Barcelona's club president has quashed reports of the imminent firing of Ronald Koeman when he said that the Dutch coach will keep his job.

Hours later, after a 2-0 loss at champions Atletico Madrid in La Liga increased the woe for the Catalan giants, Koeman thanked his club president for publicly backing him.

"Koeman will continue being the coach of Barcelona," Joan Laporta said hours before Barcelona's match at Atleti that many reports in the Spanish media speculated could be Koeman's last.

"Today, regardless of the result, Koeman will still be Barcelona's coach.

"He has a contract, (and) we hope that he can get us back on the winning path, playing the way we want. I know he will give it his all."

It was the first public statement Laporta has made since a loss at Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday sparked various reports that Koeman's days were numbered.

Koeman himself said on Friday that he imagined that the rumours of his exit were "probably true" with Barcelona losing both their Champions League matches, putting them in danger of failing to qualify for the knockout rounds for the first time in 20 years.

After the loss at Atletico, Koeman said he would have liked for Laporta to back him earlier but that "it is never late to make clear where we all stand".

"I spoke (with Laporta) last night by phone and this morning about the team and my situation, and I asked the club to clarify its position about its coach," Koeman said.

"It's important and well done for his part because if everything isn't clear in this sense then it's difficult to work and have the kind of calm you need to try and make the changes we are trying to implement."

Koeman said that he didn't how long Laporta would stick by him if the results did not improve and pointed to a three-game home stretch after next week's international break as key to start a turnaround.

Spanish media had reported that Laporta was considering Xavi Hernandez, Andrea Pirlo and Roberto Martinez as possible replacements.

Koeman has had to weather the club's financial crisis, caused by the poor management of Laporta's predecessors and the pandemic, resulting in the departures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann this summer.

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