Araujo lauds 'great coach' Koeman, in awe of 'beast' Messi

By Sports Desk March 25, 2021

Ronald Koeman is a "great coach" who has expertly handled Barcelona's difficulties this season, according to defender Ronald Araujo. 

Koeman, who was appointed last August on a two-year contract, has had to manage the fallout from Lionel Messi's ultimately unsuccessful transfer request ahead of the 2020-21 campaign. 

A failure to get past the last-16 stage in the Champions League was a major disappointment, but a superb recent run in LaLiga has given them a chance of catching leaders Atletico Madrid. 

Sunday's 6-1 thumping of Real Sociedad – a ninth consecutive top-flight away win – lifted them to within four points of Diego Simeone's side heading into the international break.

Uruguayan Araujo, who has played in 15 LaLiga games this season after featuring in just six during his debut campaign in 2019-20, has been impressed with Koeman's efforts and wants him to remain at the helm beyond this season. 

"It's very good that the board has confidence in Koeman because the boss has shown that he is a great coach," the 22-year-old told TV3. 

"He is very good with the team and the locker room. This relationship is very important. I am very happy that he can continue with us because he brings a lot to us, especially the young people.

"The work he had in front of him was not at all easy, considering how the whole situation was. But he is a coach with a lot of character, who knows how to deal with these issues, and the coaching staff have done a very good job. 

"We are working well and that translates into the way the locker room is and the results."

Araujo also declared his admiration for Messi and hopes Barca's talisman stays at Camp Nou beyond this season.

On Sunday, Messi overtook Xavi as the player with the most appearances for Barca (768), six days after the 33-year-old scored a 20th LaLiga goal for the 13th successive season – another record.

The Argentina forward has been involved in more goals in 2021 than any other player across Europe's 'top five' leagues, but he still has not tied his future to the Catalan club, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly interested in signing him. 

"I hope he stays with us next year and many more years to come," Araujo added. "Leo is fine, I see him very happy. He works a lot, not only in matches, but also in training. 

"Messi trains like a beast and that's very good because he is the captain and he is a reference, and he spreads it to us all, to the rest of the team and to the young people."

Barca host Real Valladolid in LaLiga on April 5 after the international break, followed by El Clasico against Real Madrid five days later.

Related items

  • Barca still optimistic in LaLiga title pursuit despite Clasico defeat, says Koeman Barca still optimistic in LaLiga title pursuit despite Clasico defeat, says Koeman

    Ronald Koeman insisted Barcelona remain upbeat and optimistic in their pursuit of the LaLiga title, despite suffering Clasico pain at the hands of Real Madrid.

    Barca left the Spanish capital emptyhanded after Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos guided defending champions Madrid to a 2-1 win on Saturday.

    Oscar Mingueza set up a dramatic final half-hour with his second goal of the season for Barca, while Madrid midfielder Casemiro was sent off in the 90th minute.

    But Madrid held on at a sodden Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium to seal a third consecutive win against Barca in all competitions for the first time since 1978 as they provisionally moved top of the table, with Atletico Madrid in action on Sunday.

    Barca are third and a point off the pace, though they could fall four points adrift if Atletico beat Real Betis.

    "Of course we're still upbeat and optimistic because we've produced a serious performance," Barca head coach Koeman told reporters. "We are fighting.

    "We lost a match against a team who are fighting to win the league but there are nine matches and all the matches are important for the three best teams.

    "It's difficult for all three of us. We will come back, we will fight until the last match."

    Barca attempted 12 shots in total in the second half, three of those on target, and nearly snatched a point when Ilaix Moriba struck the crossbar in the 94th minute.

    But, Koeman became the first Barcelona coach to lose his first two LaLiga games against Madrid since Joaquim Rife in 1980 (also the first two).

    Koeman could not hide his frustration post-match, having felt his side should have had a penalty when substitute Martin Braithwaite went down in the box under pressure from Ferland Mendy.

    The former Netherlands boss said: "I'm not the only person who's upset about the decision, or lack of decision.

    "The players feel disappointed because of this decision by the referee to not give the penalty and there's players who have been playing for years for Barcelona, so I know. But once again not all decisions were right.

    "You should ask the players but I would like to include myself. We know that we've played a good match football wise, the first part, the first half, ok, we were not up to our standards. Real Madrid defended very well in the first half.

    "There's no [league] match next week and the title [Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao] is at stake. We have a week to prepare for a difficult match so we'll carry on and we are strong."

    Lionel Messi, meanwhile, failed to score in seven consecutive Clasicos in all competitions for the first time in his career.

  • The Masters: Matsuyama embracing new experience with Japanese star poised to make history The Masters: Matsuyama embracing new experience with Japanese star poised to make history

    Hideki Matsuyama is embracing the new experience of leading a major as the Japanese golfer stands on the brink of history following a red-hot performance at The Masters.

    Matsuyama seized control of the tournament at Augusta, where the five-time PGA Tour champion earned a four-stroke lead thanks to his flawless third-round 65 on Saturday.

    After inclement weather halted proceedings, Matsuyama – chasing his maiden major title – jumped out of the blocks and gained six shots in seven holes to blitz the field in Georgia.

    Matsuyama heads into Sunday's final round as the player to beat at 11 under through 54 holes, ahead of Xander Schauffele, March Leishman, Justin rose and Will Zalatoris, while looking to become the first Japanese man to win a major event.

    "This will be a new experience for me, being a leader going into the final round in a major," said Matsuyama, who was one under before the weather delay.

    "All I can do is just relax as I can tonight, prepare well and just do my best tomorrow."

    Matsuyama – making his 87th start since his last victory at the 2017 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational – posted the first bogey-free round this week and his best score in 37 rounds at The Masters.

    The 29-year-old, who birdied the seventh hole on a bogey-free front nine, was red hot following the turn, birdieing the 11th and 12th.

    Unstoppable, Matsuyama eagled the 15th before following that up with back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th as he soared to 11 under through 54 holes.

    "During the rain delay, or right before the rain delay, I probably hit the worst shot I've hit this week," he said. "And during the rain delay, I just figured, I can't hit anything worse than that. And so maybe it relieved some pressure."

    "Before the horn blew, I didn't hit a very good drive, but after the horn blew for the restart, I hit practically every shot exactly how I wanted to," continued Matsuyama.

    Matsuyama was off the pace at the start of the day but turned the tables to soar to the summit.

    Asked what he would have thought had he been told he would end the day four strokes lead, Matsuyama added: "Maybe I wouldn't have believed it, but I did play well today.

    "And my game plan was carried out, and hopefully tomorrow I can continue good form."

    Matsuyama has been paired with 2019 Masters runner-up and former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Schauffele in the final round.

    Of the last 30 Masters champions, 25 have come from the last pairing.

  • Barcelona hopeful Lionel Messi hasn't played his last Clasico after Madrid loss Barcelona hopeful Lionel Messi hasn't played his last Clasico after Madrid loss

    Barcelona are hopeful superstar captain Lionel Messi has not played his last El Clasico for the LaLiga giants, said director Guillermo Amor.

    Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and his future with Barca is far from certain amid strong links to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

    New Barca president Joan Laporta remains determined to re-sign Messi, who has spent his entire senior career at Camp Nou.

    Amor was asked about Messi's future after Barca lost Saturday's Clasico 2-1 at Real Madrid.

    "We hope not," Amor told reporters following the match when asked if it was Messi's final Clasico showdown.

    "We hope he decides to stay at Barcelona and plays many more Clasicos with Barcelona." 

    Messi had seven attempts on goal against Madrid, including when he hit the post with an audacious effort directly from a corner towards the end of the first half.

    No Barcelona player had more shots, but Messi could not find a way through in what could potentially be his final tangle with Madrid in this famous fixture.

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has now gone seven Clasicos in all competitions without scoring – the longest drought of his career against Los Blancos.

    Barca missed the chance to move top of the league standings on Saturday – Ronald Koeman's men left in third position and a point adrift of Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.