Luis Suarez wants Ronald Koeman to tell him to his face why he showed him the door at Barcelona just over two years ago.

Suarez joined LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid on a free transfer in September 2020 after being deemed surplus to requirements by Koeman.

The Uruguay striker, now playing for his boyhood club Nacional, scored 198 goals in a trophy-laden six-year spell with Barca.

Suarez hopes Koeman, who was sacked by the Blaugrana in October 2021 after just 14 months as head coach, will explain why he decided to get rid of him.

He told Marca: "Time goes by, and yes, out of politeness and respect, I would greet him.

"If I met him, I hope that Ronald would have the greatness, which he had as a player at the club, to tell me the truth to my face about why I left and that I didn't leave for footballing or technical reasons."

Xavi replaced Koeman and has been given significant backing in the transfer market, bringing in the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha.

Suarez feels Barca legend Xavi has everything in place to be a success.

Asked if Xavi will produce the style of football fans of the Catalan giants expect, he said: "I think so. He is showing it, without being perfect. He is a coach who grew up there and knows what the club and the fans need.

"I see many conditions for him to go far as a coach, and, in addition, they gave him good tools for it, they gave him the players that he needed and wanted. It's up to him to prove it."

Suarez believes Barca have a good blend of youth and experience as they strive to dethrone LaLiga champions and fierce rivals Real Madrid.

Quizzed how he thinks his former club will do, he replied: "Very well. They made good signings and the young players have two more years of experience: Pedri, Gavi, Ansu [Fati], who is coming back, plus the experience of Jordi [Alba], Busi [Sergio Busquets], [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen... It's a team that can compete for everything."

Ronald Koeman claimed an attempted move to bring Georginio Wijnaldum to Barcelona fell through after president Joan Laporta delayed a deal.

The Dutchman, who was fired by the LaLiga outfit last October after 14 months in charge at Camp Nou, struggled at times on the Barcelona bench and was replaced by Xavi.

Koeman, who will embark on a second spell as Netherlands head coach after the World Cup in Qatar, has confirmed he attempted to bring in compatriot Wijnaldum during the final transfer window of his Barcelona tenure.

However, Koeman contends that president Laporta, then recently returned to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor, stymied any move by dragging his heels.

"I tried to sign Wijnaldum for Barca, but I failed because the president wanted to play with me more than bring in a player," Koeman told Dutch newspaper AD.

"That delayed the operation, and for that reason, he opted for PSG. Otherwise, he would have played for Barcelona."

Wijnaldum left Liverpool in June 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain, but he struggled across a dismal first season, resulting in him being loaned out to Roma for the current campaign.

A serious leg injury has since left Wijnaldum sidelined, however, making it highly unlikely he will be included in the Netherlands' squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

While criticising Joan Laporta's management, Ronald Koeman has claimed Barcelona are caught up in their own history as football evolves beyond their identity on the pitch.

The former Barcelona head coach claims Laporta placed unnecessary pressure on him before his dismissal in October last year.

Xavi taking over from the 59-year-old formed part of a narrative that the financially embattled club would return to their roots both on and off the pitch, as part of Laporta's second stint as club president.

In an interview with Esport3, Koeman suggested such a sentiment is ultimately impractical and ignorant of football's evolution, while defending his own tactical choices in charge of the Blaugrana.

"I am in favour of dominating the game," he said. "If you play with three central defenders, you cannot say that it is a defensive system. With this system for three or four months, we played the best games in recent years.

"The clearest example was the [2021 Copa del Rey] final against Athletic. Barcelona lives in the past, from 4-3-3, to Tiki-taka. Football has changed. Now it's faster, more physical.

"You can't live in the past. If you have Xavi, Iniesta... and Messi, who by the way, they took from me. This was a very hard one to take."

Koeman also hinted to the weight lifted off his shoulders after his dismissal, especially within the context of leaving the Netherlands national team to take Barcelona over during a period of significant financial and political upheaval at the club.

Laporta was elected as Barcelona president three months after Koeman's replacement of Quique Setien in 2020.

Set to take over the Netherlands from Louis van Gaal after this year's World Cup, Koeman insists life has become less complicated since leaving, but harbours no regrets about his return to the club he won a Champions League with as a player.

"Leaving was a bit of a liberation," he said. "It was a difficult time for the club, without a president, with Laporta's doubts about the coach.

"You want to be a coach and you know that if you don't win you have problems. I made an effort, I left the national team and if it happened again, I would do it again. I don't regret it.

"As president, you can always have doubts but if you say them to the public, everyone doubts. It was a big mistake on his part."

Barcelona coach Xavi expressed his gratitude for the support from former boss Ronald Koeman as he implored the Blaugrana to respond against Real Mallorca.

Xavi's side sit third in LaLiga, a point behind second-placed Sevilla – who have played a game more – and 15 behind runaway leaders Real Madrid.

However, Barca have fallen to three straight home defeats in all competitions for just the second time in their history, last doing so under Louis van Gaal between the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.

That torrid run culminated in their elimination from the Europa League and placed slight doubt over Champions League qualification, though they are six points ahead of fifth-placed Real Betis.

Koeman suggested on Thursday that Xavi deserves more support than he received when at Barca, with the Spaniard lifting the Blaugrana from ninth to third following the Dutchman's dismissal last October.

While Xavi welcomed the support of a fellow coach and revealed his admiration for Koeman, the 42-year-old urged Barca to improve against Mallorca on Sunday.

"I'm not going to change the feelings that Ronald has. I wasn't there and I'm not going to give my opinion," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday.

"I have tremendous respect and admiration for him. Everyone has to support Barca. I have the utmost respect for Ronald for the work and effort he made. Thank him, nothing more.

"We are here and I do feel the support of the club and of Barcelona in general. It seemed that we had hit the key, but suddenly there were three defeats in a row.

"Now we have to see to the coach, the players, show our faces."

Barca have never lost four home games in a row in their history, and Xavi reiterated his calls for his side to respond against Mallorca, who have lost their last eight league meetings with the Blaugrana.

"It is time to take a step forward," he added. "You have to make more of a team than ever and bring out your personality. It's not because of a bad attitude.

"It's because of situations that have weighed us down. We have to improve. It's time to push it forward and bring out the personality. I have a winning team and that's the reality.

"You have to set challenges. Those who have the most desire will enter the Champions League. This is a club made to win titles. The second is the minimum required.

"On Monday we were angry, on Tuesday less and on Wednesday we were already working.

"It is a reality and you have to prepare yourself for that. You have to have faith to achieve the minimum objective."

Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid will be crowned champions if they avoid defeat against Espanyol the day before Barca are in action.

"If they are champions, we will congratulate them," he said of Madrid.

"They have been better because this is a long competition and usually the one who deserves it wins. We will congratulate them and next year we will compete better."

Ronald Koeman has called on former club Barcelona to show Xavi more support than he received in the Camp Nou dugout and defended his own record with the Blaugrana.

Koeman spent just over a year in the Camp Nou dugout before being sacked in October 2021, winning the Copa del Ray last season but overseeing a third-place finish in LaLiga and the departure of legendary attacker Lionel Messi.

Barca sat ninth in the top flight when the Dutchman departed, but are now favourites to secure Champions League qualification after Xavi oversaw an upturn in results. 

However, the Catalan giants recently lost three successive home games for just the second time in their illustrious history, and Koeman says club president Joan Laporta must show Xavi more support than he was granted during his own spell in charge.

"The situation of Barca, of the team and of the club, is the same as when I was [there]," he said at a golf event in Barcelona. "It means that changing the coach does not always mean being able to improve. The situation of the club hurts me.

"From January I will be the coach of the Netherlands, but I ask for maximum support for Xavi. He is a good coach, a legend at home and it is not his fault that Barca is in this situation.

"The only thing I ask is support for Xavi, I haven't had the full support of a president, I hope he [Laporta] has learned and does support Xavi. I didn't have support from the club and I hope Xavi does.

"Internally, you can say you have doubts, but on the outside there has to be support." 

Barca enjoyed an upturn in results after the January arrivals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres but rivals Real Madrid are now 15 points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Los Blancos will secure their 35th title by earning a point at home to Espanyol on Saturday after winning eight of their last nine league games (one loss), and Koeman says that gap is evidence that his time in charge was not a complete failure, highlighting financial difficulties and presidential elections as having a severe impact throughout his tenure.

 

"When I left, Madrid was eight points ahead and now the difference is almost double," he added. "I don't feel like a failed coach, far from it. 

"In January we were twelve points behind Atletico Madrid, we had the opportunity to be first against Granada and we failed. We kept the Copa and if you win a title it's not a failure.

"I spent many months without a president, I had to make statements about the club's situation, there was financial fair play [issues]. Then Messi and [Antoine] Griezmann left on the last day of the market. 

"I was heavily criticised for signing Luuk Jong, who is very good when you need a finisher. Luckily his goals have given five or six points in the last few minutes. I think that one person or a coach cannot be blamed for the loss of [the club's] DNA."

Koeman will reclaim his former position as Netherlands head coach after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar when he takes over from Louis van Gaal and will be reunited with Blaugrana midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

De Jong has come in for some criticism for his recent displays and has been linked with a move to Manchester United, but Koeman believes the 24-year-old will prove any doubters wrong.

"I don't think Barca wants to sell Frenkie, Xavi doesn't want to either," he added. "You don't have to doubt Frenkie de Jong, I don't doubt him and he's a starter in the national team. We put a player on top of everything and two weeks later we criticise him."

Louis van Gaal confirmed he has successfully undergone treatment for prostate cancer following the reveal of his diagnosis.

The Netherlands coach announced he was suffering from the illness on a Dutch television show earlier this month.

The news raised questions over whether Van Gaal would be well enough to lead the Oranje at this year's World Cup, set to take place in Qatar in November and December.

But now the ex-Barcelona and Manchester United boss has revealed he has successfully received a course of action against the cancer.

"I've been through everything," the 70-year-old told Dutch news agency ANP. "I had 25 radiation treatments. Then I had to wait five or six months to see if it had done its job. It did."

Van Gaal will step down after he has led his country at Qatar 2022, with the Oranje boss looking to better his third-place finish in charge at Brazil 2014.

It will bring the curtain down on his third spell at the helm of the national team, with another former boss in Ronald Koeman set to replace him.

Netherlands next face Belgium, Wales and Poland in their UEFA Nations League kick-off in June.

Ronald Koeman will return to his former role as head coach of the Netherlands national team after the 2022 World Cup.

The former Barcelona boss will take over from Louis van Gaal, who revealed recently on Dutch TV show Humberto he has undergone 25 rounds of radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

The 70-year-old has continued to work and did not tell his players of his condition when the Netherlands squad got together in March for friendlies against Denmark and Germany.

However, Van Gaal will remain in charge for the tournament in Qatar, which takes place between November 21 and December 18, with Koeman resuming the role he left in 2020 after that.

The news was confirmed by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) on Wednesday.

"I am looking forward to the new collaboration," Koeman said. "A little over a year and a half ago, I certainly did not leave the Dutch national team out of dissatisfaction. 

"My stay felt good, the results were good and the connection with the players was good. We will soon continue on that path, that is certain to me."

Marianne van Leeuwen, director of professional football for the KNVB, said: "We are very happy that Ronald will return next year. During his previous term as national coach, there was great satisfaction with his work and the results.

"That is why, after internal deliberations, together with director of top-level football Nico-Jan Hoogma, I entered into discussions with Ronald and his agent Rob Jansen."

Koeman previously spent just over two years as national team coach between 2018 and 2020, guiding the Netherlands to the final of the 2018-19 Nations League, before leaving for Barca in August 2020.

The Netherlands will face hosts Qatar, Senegal and Ecuador in Group A at the World Cup following Friday's draw.

Ronald Koeman believes he was not afforded the same support successor Xavi has received from the Barcelona hierarchy and says he will not return to the club while Joan Laporta remains president.

In an interview with Dutch newspaper AD, Koeman also questioned why Lionel Messi had to leave Barca, only for the club to reinvest in new attackers under Xavi.

Koeman, who made 264 appearances for the Blaugrana as a player, was sacked as the club's head coach last October with the team sat ninth in LaLiga.

The former Netherlands boss has now opened up on his tenure in the Barca dugout, during which he battled with a dire financial situation and the departure of Camp Nou icon Messi, saying Laporta did not afford him the support he needed.

"I just wasn't Laporta's trainer," the 58-year-old said. "I had that feeling from the very first moment I met him, after he won the election [in January 2021]. There was no click. The necessary support from above was lacking.

"He told me a thousand times that Xavi would not become his trainer either, because he lacked the experience. But he needed a shield, someone to hide behind.

"You won't see me in the Camp Nou for a while, I can't do that yet. Not with this chairman. I can't pretend nothing happened.

"The time the new trainer was given was not given to me. I still find that painful. I was dealing with all those injuries, now Pedri is fit again, and Dembele. [Xavi] had the same problem as me in the beginning: many injured players.

"Every trainer needs time and patience from the leadership. Xavi got that, and reinforcements. He has gained three attackers [Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang], I would have liked that too.

"But I'm happy for the club, that things are going better now, and for the players."

 

Meanwhile, the Dutchman also admitted he was confused to see Laporta give the green light to the big-money signing of Torres in January, mere months after the club's financial crisis led to Messi's departure.  

"It was at the insistence of the club management that I agreed to the departure of some players," Koeman stressed. "In order to get the finances in order.

"But when you then see that they attract someone for 55million [the fee paid to Manchester City for Torres] shortly after they let Messi go, you wonder if there wasn't more going on.

"Why did Messi have to leave?"

The arrivals of Xavi and a host of new attackers have had a major impact on the Catalan club, and Barcelona go into Sunday's trip to Elche unbeaten in 10 LaLiga matches (six wins and four draws). 

This marks their longest unbeaten run in the competition since April 2021 (19 games), and the second longest current run in the competition (Sevilla are unbeaten in 12).

The Blaugrana are currently battling a host of clubs, including Atletico Madrid, Real Betis, and Real Sociedad, for Champions League qualification, sitting fourth in LaLiga with 13 games remaining.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi is upset to see Barcelona struggle in his absence and has reiterated he would love to one day return to the club.

Messi's trophy-laden two-decade association with Barcelona came to an end in August when he joined PSG on a free transfer.

He scored a club-record 672 goals for Barca across 778 appearances, but the Catalan giants were unable to honour a contract offered to the player, due to financial restrictions.

The Argentina international's shock exit has left a huge void at Camp Nou, with Barca winning just seven of their 17 matches in all competitions this campaign.

Barca are seventh in LaLiga and have a crucial tie with Benfica on Tuesday as they aim to keep their Champions League last-16 hopes in their own hands.

Asked if his former club's form this season makes him sad, Messi said: "Yes, obviously. I always want the best for Barcelona. I'm a fan even though I'm not playing there now. 

"And I have colleagues and friends there within the team. I want them to do well. It is true that in LaLiga they've dropped many points, but there is still a lot more to play for. I have no doubt that Barcelona will get themselves back up the table."

Messi, who spent 17 seasons in Barca's first team, revealed earlier this month he is open to returning to the LaLiga club in the future in a technical secretary position.

In a wide-ranging interview published by Marca on Tuesday, Messi gave further insight into his recent departure and his future plans.

"I always said that at some point I will return to Barcelona because it is my home and because I am going to live there," he said. "And obviously if I can contribute and help the club I would love to come back.

"My exit is done. I left there and time has passed. What they told me is that they couldn't renew my contract and that I couldn't stay. You don't have to look for more culprits or look back at what happened. I'll stick with what they told me and that's it."

Barca's terrible start to their first season without Messi since 2003-04 led to the sacking of head coach Ronald Koeman in October and the subsequent appointment of Xavi.

Koeman left with a record of 28 wins from his 48 league matches in charge, but Messi believes the Dutchman was treated harshly, saying such dismissals are always "unfair" to coaches.

"When there are bad results, the easiest thing is to target the coach, to replace him and not the players," Messi said.

Messi has made a mixed start to the new chapter in his career with PSG, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner scoring four goals in nine appearances in all competitions.

He netted his first Ligue 1 goal in his sixth outing in the competition last weekend and now feels his "adaption has been pretty fast".

Messi has joined a star-studded cast at PSG that also includes Kylian Mbappe and former Barca team-mate Neymar.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the trio each rank in the top seven for goal involvements in all competitions among players from clubs in Europe's top five leagues.

Messi leads the way with a combined 377 goals and assists, with Mbappe fifth on 246 goal involvements and Neymar seventh with 231.

Despite boasting arguably the strongest attack on the continent, Messi does not believe PSG can consider themselves as firm favourites to win the Champions League.

"Everyone says that we are the big favourites and I will not deny that we are one of the candidates by name, but we still need things to become a really strong team," he said.

"We have to finish consolidating as a team and we have the advantage of having very great players to achieve it.  But we are not the only ones, there are other great teams that are candidates."

Xavi said he "really wants to go home", with Barcelona in talks with Al Sadd to make him their new head coach.

Barca's first vice-president Rafael Yuste and director of football Mateu Alemany were in attendance for Al Sadd's 3-3 draw with Al Duhail on Wednesday, a result that kept Xavi's side three points clear at the top of the Stars League. 

The former midfielder, who made 767 appearances for Barca as a player and won 25 trophies during an illustrious spell for the club, has been the frontrunner to take over following the dismissal of Ronald Koeman last week. 

Al Sadd last week insisted Xavi was solely focused on the Qatari club, with whom he has a two-year contract, but the coach confirmed an agreement on his future could be reached in a matter of hours. 

"I really want to go home. The two clubs are in talks and a resolution must be reached. I am very excited, but it's a matter of respect – I have a contract," Xavi told Mundo Deportivo. 

"It would be a return home. The two clubs have to agree. Hopefully it will be done, because I am very eager and excited. 

"I am very positive. I have been very clear about my position. I think it will be a matter of hours, maybe days. They know my stance and hopefully it can be done." 

He added to TV3: "I am a positive person and it is a matter of common sense. They have to agree. The two clubs know my position and I hope it will be sorted soon." 

After a 1-1 draw with Deportivo Alaves in their first game since Koeman's dismissal, Barca boosted their qualification hopes in the Champions League by beating Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday. 

Speaking more generally about what Koeman's successor needs to do at Camp Nou, Xavi added: "The coach who goes does not have to be a messiah. We saw a different Barca yesterday. 

"Everyone has to row in the same direction for Barca to win games. We are all very excited. We will see if it ends up being done, but it would be spectacular." 

Gaizka Mendieta believes Barcelona should have sacked Ronald Koeman earlier to prevent "negative dynamics" from developing at Camp Nou.

Barca parted company with Koeman on Wednesday following a 1-0 LaLiga defeat to Rayo Vallecano, on the back of a home Clasico loss against Real Madrid.

Koeman replaced Quique Setien in August 2020 but has failed to make an impact as he battled with Barca's dire financial situation, which led to Lionel Messi departing for Paris Saint-Germain.

The Blaugrana were ninth in the table ahead of a clash with Alaves on Saturday and have lost two of their three Champions League Group E matches.

Sergi Barjuan has stepped in as caretaker head coach and club legend Xavi is expected to be named as Koeman's successor on a permanent basis.

Former Spain midfielder Mendieta thinks the writing was on the wall for Koeman long ago and feels president Joan Laporta would have fired the former Netherlands defender sooner if the club were not so short of funds.

"I think finances are only of the reasons [why he was not sacked earlier]. Although, like we see now, if it has to come to that they will do anyway," he told Stats Perform.

"So the question is, why they didn't do it earlier? Because Laporta said he was not the man that he wanted for his project, he couldn't find anyone else so he stayed.

"That already started some negative dynamics in the club and in the team. So why don't do it in the first place I think financially was one of the big reasons for them not to do it.

"And then again, you start to generate some sort of bad atmosphere within the team, the club and the fans which is no good for anyone."

 

Mendieta has sympathy for Koeman given the off-field issues he had to contend with.

He added: "When you plan having a season as a manager with Messi on the team, and Messi leaves days before they start the season, then publicly the president or the board says that Koeman is not the manager they would like to have, but because they haven't got any option he stays.

"Then we see these three pillars of the club having different conversations like the board, the managers and the players in kind of everyone trying to save in a way themselves, which is not good for our team, for our club, in any situation.

"And then resources don't arrive, players injured. So there's a lot of ingredients in this kind of difficult situation. However, I still think there's a lot of potential in the team. There have been other players, key players, injured, and they're slowly coming back, hopefully, but they will need time.

"So it's a matter of time of where resources arrive and there's some sort of consistency in the results and the points, because at the moment they win one game, they look like they are in recovery, then they lose the next one, and crisis again."

Al Sadd have addressed rumours linking manager Xavi with the vacant head coach role at Barcelona by reiterating the former Spain international remains tied to a two-year contract.

Ronald Koeman was sacked by Barcelona after the club's dismal start to the 2021-22 campaign continued with a shock defeat to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.

That left them ninth in LaLiga and six points off the top – that gap has since been stretched to nine.

Sergi Barjuan was placed in temporary charge until a permanent successor to Koeman is found, and Blaugrana great Xavi is the hot favourite.

The 41-year-old has long been seen as a potential future head coach at Barca, and he is even reported to have turned down two approaches in the past: before Quique Setien was hired to replace Ernesto Valverde, and earlier this year when Joan Laporta reclaimed the presidency.

Laporta addressed the media beside Sergi on Friday and did little to cool speculation as he spoke of his surety that Xavi will one day coach Barcelona – though the president did at least follow that with the caveat of not knowing when that would be.

But while it seems inevitable that Barca will approach Xavi once again in the coming days, Al Sadd have at least attempted to calm the situation from their own perspective.

A statement posted to Twitter read: "In response to what's circulating recently, the Al Sadd management reaffirms that Xavi has a two-year contract with the club and is fully focused on the team's upcoming matches, to maintain our lead at the top of the league and to defend the title."

Xavi came through the ranks at Barca and went on to make 767 appearances for the club during one of their most illustrious periods.

He left for Al Sadd in 2014 and finished his playing career there, before taking over as coach and leading them to seven domestic trophies.

Barca face Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou on Saturday and are away to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League three days later.

Sergi Barjuan has urged Barcelona's players to add greater substance to their style as the stop-gap head coach pointed the way forward in the post-Ronald Koeman era.

The clash with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday may prove to be Sergi's only game as boss of the first team, with Barcelona eager to bring Xavi to the club.

Sergi's regular role is as coach to Barcelona B, and he has had precious little time with the senior stars since Koeman was dismissed on Wednesday, after a 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano .

Barcelona head into the weekend in a lowly ninth position, nine points behind leaders Real Sociedad, albeit with one game in hand.

They have played the same number of games as Real Madrid, who sit six points clear of Barcelona and already have a Clasico win in the bag this season.

Sergi believes Barcelona can get back on track and said in a news conference on Friday: "We have to be united, people have to come to the ground tomorrow.

"The way of playing will not change, but maybe some tactical concepts could provide the solution. The style is non-negotiable."

He added: "Tomorrow we have to win the game because LaLiga is open. We have to recover the idea of ​​vertical football."

Former Barcelona and Spain defender Sergi will be without Ansu Fati for the game due to the teenager's knee injury, but Ousmane Dembele could be involved for the first time this season, with the winger back in training after his own knee lay-off.

Sergi said: "I want to put some joy back into the team and get them enjoying their football again. I need all the players to be plugged into turning this situation around."

 

Playing a vertical game, which would mean being more direct, would seem an obvious move given the personnel available to Barcelona.

Feeding the ball as early as possible to the experienced and capable likes of Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero may be the smartest option for a team who have struggled to find an identity since Lionel Messi's move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barcelona have played fewer long passes (449) than any team in LaLiga this season, according to Opta data, but they have played the most possessional passes (6,364), as well as the most passes in the opposition's half (3,431).

Clearly, they are struggling to find a winning formula with their keep-ball game. This has not been helped by their finishing, with just 15 goals scored from an expected goals (xG) total of 18.7.

While Barcelona have lost their last two LaLiga games, to Real Madrid and Rayo, Alaves have picked themselves up after taking just three points from their opening eight matches and have beaten Cadiz and Elche back to back.

Barcelona have not lost any of their last 20 games at home to Basque opponents in LaLiga (W18 D2) since their 2-1 loss against Alaves in September 2016.

Alaves have kept only one clean sheet across their 16 away games against Barcelona in LaLiga, conceding 53 goals across those games. The shutout came in a shock 1-0 win in February 2000.

Sergi said of his opportunity to lead the Barcelona first team: "First of all, I would like to thank the club for the trust they have placed in me. Secondly, I want to send a big hug to Koeman because we have worked side by side these months.

"I arrive in a complex situation, but we are already working. We will have to look for the opponent's weaknesses and try to break their streak with our game."

Joan Laporta is adamant Xavi will be Barcelona head coach one day but refused to reveal if he will replace Ronald Koeman in the dugout this season.

Koeman was relieved of his duties on Wednesday after a poor start to the season that has left Barca ninth in LaLiga and with just three points from three Champions League games. Barca B boss Sergi Barjuan has taken temporary charge.

Club legend and Al Sadd manager Xavi has emerged as the front-runner for the permanent position, but Barca president Laporta – while praising the 41-year-old – maintained he is keeping his options open.

Xavi guided Al Sadd to the Qatar Stars League title last season and has claimed six cups since taking over in 2019, having spent four years at the club as a player.

"I have always said that Xavi will coach Barca one day," Laporta said ahead of Barca's contest with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday. "He is a person who lives for football, he belongs to Barca and has it as a priority objective in his life.

"What I think is that I have a very good relationship with him and we'll see how everything evolves. I have been talking to Xavi since the election campaign and contact has never been broken. 

"I have not changed my opinion about Xavi. Since he went to Qatar, I said he would be a Barca coach. What I don't know is when. The reports we have are very good.

"I have not followed Al Sadd. All the inputs that come to us are positive. He has recently taken the step of being a coach and does not have a long career. As much as we talk about Xavi, let me keep my [options open]."

Laporta also acknowledged the club should have dismissed Koeman sooner and accepts responsibility for the delay in the decision being made.

"[Giving Koeman time] was a way to motivate the coach and the team," Laporta continued. "Possibly we should have decided earlier, and I take responsibility for this decision. The situation was untenable. We had entered a dangerous drift in which we could disengage from everything.

"Ronald is a legend of Barcelona and we had to thank him for the effort he made. I told Ronald that, good luck and thank you very much. Possibly I had to make the decision before, but I opted for this decision."

The Barca president insisted that whoever is brought in as the new head coach will be backed by the board but will also be expected to deliver success within a short period of time.

"[The new head coach] will have the full support of the board that I preside over and the football management," Laporta added. "We will see how he evolves. He will have all our support and all our demands because we aspire to win the competitions we are in.

"At Barca, there are no transitional seasons. Everything is possible in football."

Xavi insists he is focused on his work with Al Sadd amid reports he is set to take over as the new head coach of Barcelona. 

Barca sacked Ronald Koeman on Wednesday following a 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano that left them six points off top spot in LaLiga. 

It was the Catalan giants' first defeat to Rayo since December 2002 and ended a run of 13 straight LaLiga victories against them. 

Sergi Barjuan has been placed in temporary charge, with Xavi expected to be allowed to leave Al Sadd next week following their clash with Qatar Stars League title rivals Al Duhail. 

Asked about the possibility of an impending return to Camp Nou on Thursday, Xavi said: "I am focused on my work with Al Sadd and I won't talk about anything else."

Xavi came through the ranks at Barca and went on to provide 184 assists and score 85 times in 767 appearances for the club during one of their most illustrious periods. 

He left for Al Sadd in 2014 and finished his playing career there, before taking over as coach and leading them to seven domestic trophies.

Barca face Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou on Saturday and are away to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League three days later.

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