Ronald Koeman: Southampton boss focused on job in hand, not Barcelona

Dutch coach has been linked with replacing Luis Enrique

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The Independent Online

Ronald Koeman can see himself returning to Barcelona as manager one day, but the Dutchman's only focus right now is continuing Southampton's fine form.

Life at the Nou Camp is rocky at the moment, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu announcing on Thursday that elections would be held early in a bid to lift the negative "tension" around the club.

The term crisis is being bandied around and the Spanish press are reporting rising tensions between head coach Luis Enrique and some of his players, namely Lionel Messi.

Speculation that both could soon be leaving Barca has been knocked back by Bartomeu, while Enrique had denied he was handed an ultimatum by the club.

His position at the helm does, though, look under pressure and Koeman has been installed as the bookmakers' favourite to replace him, thanks to his fine work at Saints and his history with the Catalan giants.

Barcelona list the former defender amongst their "legends" after a highly-successful spell as a player at the Nou Camp - a place he can see himself returning to as manager, albeit not in the immediate future.

"At teams like Barcelona, if they lose games, there's always a lot of critics, rumours, speculation," Koeman said.

"I know because my whole life I'm linked to Barcelona, but it's not a time to talk about that, because I think it's not respectful to Southampton as a club, it is not respectful to the people of Barcelona."

Asked if he could see himself managing the club one day, Koeman said: "Yes, but I had that [opportunity] sometimes and it never happened.

"Now I'm very happy to be here in Southampton and that's the most important [thing]. I started with a contract in Southampton and I like to respect to my contract and to the people."

Koeman's goal now is to continue Southampton's remarkable campaign at Louis van Gaal's Manchester United.

The Saints boss coached alongside his compatriot at Barcelona in the late nineties, but their relationship took a well-documented downward turn when they worked together at Ajax.

That ill-feeling has now largely dissipated, although Koeman is desperate to get the better of his former mentor this weekend.

"It's nice [to beat him] because he is a very good coach," he said, having lost 2-1 to United last month.

"We had some problems in the past, but we shake hands and I hope he will do it on a good way with Man United and, of course, it's special to beat him, but I lost the last time."

Van Gaal's side head into Sunday's match in third - a point and a place better than surprise package Southampton.

That is the least United should be doing, in Koeman's opinion, given their vast resources and outlay.

"They have great players," he said. "It is normal that they will fight for titles, I think."

"They have to, they have to. How you can spend that money, how you can sign that kind of players and not be fighting to win titles?"

"Everything up to Man United. They have a very successful coach, they have great players, they have money, they have got great public [support], great stadium. It is normal that you win titles."

PA

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