Barcelona coach Koeman surprises with statement, calls for patience

Ronald Koeman walks on the touchline. (Peter Morrison/AP)

MADRID (AP) — Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman surprised journalists at a news conference on Wednesday by reading a prepared statement that called for patience and practically dismissed the team's chances of achieving any significant results this season.

Barcelona has made a sluggish start to the campaign following Lionel Messi's departure with only two wins from its opening four league games and a 3-0 home loss to Bayern Munich in its Champions League opener.

There has been plenty of speculation regarding Koeman's future, but the Dutchman said he is backed by the club and asked for the support of fans in "these difficult times.''

"To finish in a high position in the Spanish league would be a great success,'' said Koeman, who left without taking any questions from reporters. "European soccer is a good school for (our youngsters) and we can't expect any miracles in the Champions League.''

He said the loss to Bayern last week has to be looked at "from that perspective.''

That demoralizing defeat was followed by a disappointing 1-1 home draw in the Spanish league against Granada, also at the Camp Nou Stadium. The Catalan club needed a 90th-minute equalizer to avoid defeat and was jeered by many of its fans after the final whistle.

Koeman, under pressure for the team's lackluster results and performances, said he has the support from the club, but did not mention president Joan Laporta.

The president said he found out about Koeman's decision to read from a statement at the last minute, along with the team captains. Laporta told Spanish media he "respected'' the coach's decision.

Laporta and Koeman have been at odds recently and the president doesn't hide the fact that Koeman would not have been his choice as coach. Koeman was hired by former club president Josep Bartomeu after the team's humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern last year in the Champions League. Laporta has said a coaching change now would be financially costly for the club.

"The club is with me in this situation of rebuilding,'' Koeman said. "The financial situation of the club is connected to the sporting results and vice-versa. This means we have to rebuild the soccer team without being able to make any significant financial investments. This takes time.''

Barcelona's financial struggles prevented the club from giving Messi a new contract and the Argentina playmaker left to join Paris Saint-Germain.

Koeman said the process the team is undergoing right now "deserves unconditional support in words and in actions.''

"This is not the first time in the history of FC Barcelona that this happens,'' he said.

Koeman's comments came a day before the team visits Cadiz in the Spanish league. The Catalan club sits in eight place in the standings with eight points, five behind leader Real Madrid with a game in hand.

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