Henrik Larsson worked as an assistant to Ronald Koeman during the Dutchman’s testing spell in charge of Barcelona and believes a legendary figure at Camp Nou “did not deserve” to be treated the way he was as the Catalan club’s board dumped him on the back of some questionable decisions behind the scenes.
A former fan favourite from his playing days returned to the Liga giants in the summer of 2020 following the dismissal of Quique Setien on the back of an 8-2 Champions League humbling against Bayern Munich.
Koeman – who scored the winning goal for Barca in the 1992 European Cup final – lasted just 14 months at the helm before being sacked himself, with Joan Laporta bringing in Xavi after seeing the Blaugrana endure considerable financial struggles that led to the departure of Lionel Messi.
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What has been said?
Former Sweden international striker Larsson, who spent time with Barca as a player between 2004 and 2006, told fotbollskanalen of the era Koeman had to oversee and why he should have been given more time in which to turn a corner: “Of course it was turbulent.
“During the first season it was all good until March when we lost to Granada at home. After that we felt that there was less support from upstairs, after Laporta became president. And that is how it continued until the summer. We went on our summer holidays and I didn’t know whether I would carry on the following season.
“We got a decision on that very late. That’s a shame. For me it doesn’t matter too much but to treat Ronald Koeman like that, he did not deserve that. After all the work we had done, the clean out that Ronald had done to make things possible, then I don’t think he deserved not being told [about his future].”
Larsson added on the situation with Messi, which led to the iconic Argentine leaving for Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent after it became apparent that a new contract for the seven-time Ballon d’Or could not be funded: “You never thought that Messi would leave the club and it had an effect on the whole squad. It was a tough time but as a coach you have to try to turn off the outside noise and know that you are there to work.
“There were days when [we] went there and didn’t know whether it was our last or whether we would continue. That could have been easily avoided but that would have demanded much better leadership than what Laporta showed.”
The bigger picture
Larsson spent a lot of his time alongside Koeman working with Barca’s younger players, with more La Masia academy graduates breaking through in the present alongside some shrewd long-term signings such as Pedri and Ferran Torres.
Larsson added on those he helped to nurture, such as Ansu Fati and Nico: “There were a lot of players Koeman and I promoted to the first team, players who will be great for Barcelona in the future. Ronald did a fantastic job in giving young players a chance. He has given Barcelona a good foundation to build on.”
Koeman did deliver a major honour during his reign – the 2021 Copa del Rey – and Xavi is still waiting on a first trophy during his spell as boss as Barca look to chase down a Europa League crown and Champions League qualification in 2021-22.