Barcelona president Joan Laporta has said several signings will be announced next week but would not confirm that Ronald Koeman will remain the club’s coach next season.
Laporta also said talks to renew Lionel Messi‘s contract, which expires in June, are progressing well, as reported earlier this week by ESPN, and that he is “moderately optimistic” the forward will sign a new deal.
Sources have confirmed to ESPN that Barca want to sign up to four players on free transfers this summer. Manchester City duo Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero, Liverpool‘s Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon‘s Memphis Depay are all out of contract with their respective clubs and have all held talks with Barca.
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Laporta said Barca’s end to the season, when they won just two of their final six games to finish outside the top two for the first time since 2008, has accelerated the need for changes.
“Losing has consequences and we will try and improve the squad,” Laporta said in a news conference on Friday. “Next week we will announce signings for the first team and you will see the results of what we have been working on.”
However, Laporta implicitly confirmed that Koeman, who has one year to run on his contract, will only continue as coach if he cannot find a credible replacement, as reported by ESPN last week.
The president told a Dutch journalist that he was confident Koeman would be able to carry on with his job despite being told he’s not his preferred man for the role.
“I have already told Koeman what I had to tell him very clearly,” Laporta added. “We’re assessing the season. He has a contract in place [but] I don’t believe in transitional seasons. We will continue to speak to him and make further decisions next week.
“You have to understand that he was a coach that was already in place with a year on his deal when we took over [in March]. We’re trying to come to an agreement where we can share with each other what we cant for next season.
“We take everything into account. Ronald will be the first to know our decision.”
Laporta wouldn’t comment on possible replacements, saying he was there to talk about “realities not dreams” when asked about the possibility of luring Pep Guardiola back from City.
However, the chances of renewing Messi’s deal when it expires next month are increasingly realistic.
“Contract talks are going well but they’re not done yet,” Laporta said. “We’re working hard to make a good proposal that is within our means and we hope he will accept it. Our relationship is very good. Messi loves Barca.
“I am sure he deserves more and could get more elsewhere. I am convinced he appreciates the effort we’re making and I think he’s excited with our sporting project. I have always said, it’s not a money issue with Leo, it’s about winning everything. I am moderately optimistic.”
Asked what has changed since last August, when Messi expressed a desire to leave, Laporta said: “Me. I am here and I think Leo likes that. Now he has a president that really wants him to stay.”
Laporta also added that the club’s wage bill is set to be 110% of their revenue, but expressed his belief that firmer financial ground can be achieved within two years.
“We have €1.2 billion gross debt and around €350 million in losses,” he said. “We are sure that we will revert it, though, because we have strong assets. There are a lot of investors that are keen on our club and I am optimistic that in a maximum of two seasons our club will be again healthy financially.”
On the European Super League, with Barca, Real Madrid and Juventus facing fines and a possible Champions League ban for refusing to drop the breakaway competition, Laporta was unrepentant.
“We don’t plan to apologise for our stance, nor do we plan to pay a fine that has no justification,” he said. “If they fine us, we will go to CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] and I am sure that we will win.”