Ronald Koeman has handed lifelines to three of Barcelona’s most experienced stalwarts as the new head coach continues to plan his squad rebuild.
The former Everton and Southampton manager has endured a baptism of fire, inheriting a squad still licking its collective wounds following an historic 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich earlier this month.
Lionel Messi’s apparent determination to quit the club has provided Koeman with an even bigger headache. The 57-year-old met with Messi last week and had hoped to convince Barcelona’s iconic captain to remain at Camp Nou.
The 33-year-old was said to have been far from convinced by Koeman’s pitch and was unhappy at the way his team-mate and close friend Luis Suarez has been treated with the former Liverpool star having been deemed surplus to requirements, without having been told in person.
Under-fire president Josep Bartomeu, who is clinging to power and is willing to step aside should Messi reconsider, had reportedly made seven other players, on top of Suarez, available for a transfer.
Among that group were the likes of club stalwarts Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, but Koeman has spoken to that trio and assured them they will figure in his future plans.
Pique was left particularly devastated by the embarrassment Barcelona were subjected to by Bayern in Lisbon and even admitted he may have played his last match for the club.
‘We have had years of success but we haven’t won the league and we haven’t won in Europe and we have to compete. You’ve seen it on the pitch and this today is unacceptable.
Koeman, however, realises the importance of keeping a core of La Masia graduates as part of his first team squad and Busquets, who was overwhelmed at the heart of Barcelona’s midfield against Bayern, has reported back early for training and is determined to make a positive impression.