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Koeman shifts blame to Barcelona chiefs for Suarez exit following Messi dig

12:56 BST 26/09/2020
Lionel Messi Ronald Koeman Barcelona GFX
The Dutchman insists that the call to cut ties with the decorated striker was reached before he arrived in Catalunya

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has claimed that the decision to sell Luis Suarez had already been made before he took over in the Camp Nou dugout following Lionel Messi's swipe at the club's handling of the Uruguayan's exit.

Suarez spent six trophy-laden years at the club, cementing a reputation as one of the Blaugrana's greatest strikers in history in the process, while also striking up a close relationship with Messi both on and off the pitch.

Messi took a fresh dig at the Barca board on Friday in an emotional farewell post to his good friend, but Koeman, who believes he has been painted as the “villain” in the saga, has stated that the decision to move on the 33-year-old had been taken before his arrival.

“It seems that I have been the villain of this film,” the Dutchman told a press conference on Saturday. “But before I arrived here, some decisions had already been made and I supported those decisions – it wasn't up to me.

“I only showed respect to Luis Suarez as a person and a player. I told him that if he stayed it would be difficult for him to play but that he would be part of the squad.”

Koeman went on to say that Messi appears to be unaffected by Suarez's departure on the training pitch, with the Argentine remaining professional throughout what has been an emotional few months.

“It's normal that Messi is sad when a friend of his leaves the club. But Leo has been an example for everyone in training and in games. Not a training session goes by in which he has not shown great commitment. I have no doubts about him.”

And while it has been a summer of discontent for the Barca faithful, one thing fans can look forward to is the development of young attacker Ansu Fati, who Koeman confirmed is part of his plans for the new season.

“Ansu Fati is a great talent,” he said. “Few players at his age are at his level. He is young and has things to learn, but if he already made his first-team debut then it means something.

“He's a player for the future of the club, although, even at his age, his level is impressive enough to play in the first team.”