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Laporta: “I’ve always said Xavi will coach Barça one day”

Interim coach Sergi Barjuan next to Joan Laporta at his first press conference / JOSEP LAGO / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Sergi Barjuan, Barça’s interim manager, had his first press conference before Saturday’s league game against Deportivo Alavés with President Laporta also being present.

Barjuan (49) has taken the position of interim manager at FC Barcelona after Ronald Koeman was fired. He took charge of his first training session with the team yesterday and will be on the bench for tomorrow’s home game against Alavés in La Liga (21:00 local time). Today, Barjuan appeared in front of the media for the usual press conference the day before a match. President Joan Laporta was also present at the press conference to answer some questions.

Laporta opened the press conference with a long statement: “Good morning everyone. We’re here to inform you that Sergi Barjuan will temporarily leave Barça B and take charge of the first team. We highly appreciate Sergi’s decision, who is a man of the club and has the experience to do this job. He deserves all of our confidence. At the moment, coaching Barça is complex. We dismissed Koeman after the game against Rayo. I would like to say that we’re very grateful to him for stepping up at a very difficult time. He’s a Barça legend and we’ll always remember him. He won the Copa del Rey and we’re not able to continue because of the results. The situation was already untenable. We are still alive in La Liga and the Champions League and we have the Copa del Rey. We have full confidence in Sergi until we find a new coach.”

“We are focused on the short- and medium-term. We have Sergi, who is a man of the club and he knows the system. He was part of one of the best teams in our history with the Dream Team and understands our philosophy. Today is an exciting day, we want to continue with the season. A change has been made because the results didn’t speak in favour of Koeman. The philosophy is clear: a genuine style of playing football that has given us a lot of success. Sergi knows this squad and will be able to work with it. We wish him a lot of success. The football management team is working on hiring a new coach. You should never make rushed decisions.”

President Joan Laporta during today’s press conference / FC BARCELONA

About the decision of firing Ronald Koeman:

Laporta: “On our part, there’s a good relationship with Koeman. We communicate everything to him with all due respect. The situation was uncontainable and he told me that he partly understood it. The negotiations for the termination of his contract are going well. We’ll respect the rights of both parties so that he is satisfied.”

About whether Koeman should’ve been fired earlier:

“Possibly, yes. Having seen what we’ve seen now, it’s easier to analyze it. Maybe we should’ve decided sooner, but we understood that Koeman deserved a margin of confidence. It was a way to motivate the coach and the team. Possibly we should’ve decided earlier and I take responsibility for this decision. The situation was untenable.”

About the possibility of having Xavi Hernández as the next coach:

“Xavi is part of a very interesting process, I’ve heard very good references from people who know him better in this area. I talk to him often. I have a friendly relationship with Xavi and we have talked in the last few months. My opinion is very positive.”

“I have always said that Xavi will coach Barça one day. He’s a person who lives for football, he belongs to Barça and it’s an important objective in his life. I think that I have a very good relationship with him and that he has a great environment. We’ll see how everything evolves.”

“I’ve been talking to Xavi since the election campaign and we stayed in touch. Ronald is a Barça legend and we thank him for the effort he made. I told Ronald good luck and thank you very much. Possibly I had to take the decision earlier, but I opted not to do it. We did what we could to give him more time, it was a sign of justice and respect.”

About the typical Barça style of play:

“Barça’s style is genuine and non-negotiable. I don’t think we lost it, but it has changed a bit. We want to recover its essence. Football evolves and the coaches become more versatile. At Barça, we like to have possession of the ball and play with depth, as Cruyff taught us. We want spectacular football, but we also want to win. A Barça coach is required to do much more than any other coach.”

Barça’s interim coach Sergi Barjuan during his first press conference / JOSEP LAGO / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

About being the coach of the first team:

Barjuan: “I would like to thank the club for their trust in me. I want to send a big hug to Koeman because we have worked side by side these few months. I arrive in a complex situation, but we already started the work. It’s easier to work with players like we have here. I liked what we did today. We have to try to connect with everyone, which is something difficult. We all have to be united, people have to come to the stadium tomorrow. The way of playing won’t change, but maybe some different tactical concepts could provide a solution.”

About how he’s going to change the team:

“I’m a winner and we all have to reverse the situation. If I have to intervene in situations for the good of the team, I will. It all depends on the different demands of each situation.”

About having enough time to prepare for the game against Alavés:

“It’s difficult. In a stressful situation, you have to try to master the situation as soon as possible. We have seen videos and Alavés is a team in form. They have won their last two games, they changed their system. Rioja’s speed can give us problems. We’ll have to look for the opponent’s weaknesses and try to break their winning streak with the way we play.”

About the players he’s working with:

“Today, we trained and I’ve been able to see the team very well. I think we start by taking small steps. It is difficult to change things in a short time. The style is non-negotiable and we have a lot of ground to cover. We’re finding the formula to have more presence and be dominant with the ball. In the end, the ball has to go in. I see all the players very prepared.”

“I don’t know what they did in training before. Today, we did different things and I asked for intensity. We are 24 hours away from a game and I want to get the most out of the team. I like to see the players show things in training.”

About tomorrow’s lineup:

“Everyone who’s available has a chance to play. With one training session, I can’t say who trains better, I have to think about the best lineup for the game. There’s a deadline and everyone has options to play. Everyone wants to play and they all have possibilities.”

“Dembélé could enter the squad list. Ansu Fati didn’t train today.”

“Those who were in training today all have possibilities. When I ask for these two players (Abde and Álvaro Sanz), it’s because we have a lot of absences. These two players can contribute if I consider it appropriate what they’re doing with Barça B.”