Koeman maneuvers between ‘FC Messi’ and fear of Dutch invasion

The last few days the phone has been ringing continuously at Edwin Winkels and Simon Kuper. Since the arrival of Ronald Koeman, the two journalists and followers of FC Barcelona have been called down by Dutch and Spanish media.

“It has been quiet here with the Dutch for years, since Ibrahim Afellay left in 2015,” says Winkels. “The arrival of Lieke Martens in 2017 caused a revival and now with Frenkie de Jong and Koeman the interest is very high again.”

As before, however, it will never be again. “The times when you walked off the training field with Cruijff and Rijkaard and had a chat, those are over. No matter how open Koeman is, Barcelona has become a bastion,” says Winkels.

Messi patriarch of ‘old men’s club’

Kuper is working on a book about FC Barcelona and tries to penetrate as deep as possible into the bastion. The Brit, who has also published Dutch books, thinks Koeman will find an “old men’s club” at Camp Nou with 33-year-old Lionel Messi as patriarch.

“It has become very FC Messi, I discovered while walking around there”, says Kuper in CCeit Met het Oog op Morgen. “Messi is a powerful man. When you see him, you think: quietly, very quietly, just wants to play soccer. But no: he really is a power figure. He sets the lines.”

‘Teammates walk from hot to her’

That Koeman, after all, a coach by name, has been appointed, says Kuper enough.

It’s a known fact. Barcelona has a surplus of old players who enjoy astronomical salaries and are the boss in the dressing room. It is time for renewal. The question is whether Messi will go along with it. The Argentinean has been wondering for some time whether his future lies in Barcelona.

Kuper: “Messi is of course the best footballer of all time, but actually runs less meters than any other top footballer. The consequence is that his teammates have to run from hot to her all the time. Some of them can’t bear that physically anymore.”

When Koeman gave his presentation Koeman immediately indicated that Messi is the most important pillar of his project. Shops: “The first thing he has done is talk to Messi, make him important. Messi drove to Barcelona especially from his holiday home in the Pyrenees.”

Running as a spare

A complete renovation is coming up, with Koeman as contractor. “Busquets and Piquรฉ have played their last match for Barcelona, I think”, says Kuper. “Or they can run as a reserve next year. Only Messi can stay. They hope very much that Barcelona will do the same.”

But Messi won’t accept everything just like that. Shops: “Koeman will not be able to remove his doubts just like that. He also has to explain to Messi why Luis Suรกrez should be allowed to leave. Those two are neighbors and good friends. Messi has also been waiting years for Neymar’s return. He feels more and more alone in the front.”

There will have to be new players, say Kuper and Winkels, but the money for that, according to both, is not there at the moment. First, players have to be sold. “It’s going to be a mediocre team plus Messi,” Kuper says. “Messi will be wondering, what’s on the field in the next few years?”

“He still has two, three years of top football ahead of him and wants to play top football. Maybe Messi doesn’t want to go on like this. I could very well imagine. Messi doesn’t like playing with mediocre players. He’s not the man for that.”

Dutch invasion?

Why does the question arise that fans are not afraid of a new Dutch enclave? As trainer of Barcelona, Louis van Gaal attracted Patrick Kluivert, Ruud Hesp, Frank and Ronald de Boer, Phillip Cocu and Boudewijn Zenden, among others, and that didn’t work out well.

Shops: “Koeman knows how wrong Van Gaal once did it. No, he’s smart enough for that. Neither did he at Southampton and Everton. He will look at his own youth, precisely because he is so integrated in Barcelona.”

Koeman has to prove himself right away in Barcelona. The competition starts already on September 12th and in March next year new presidential elections are scheduled. According to Kuper and Winkels he will have to perform so well that the new president cannot make it to get rid of him.