Often when footballers or managers conduct interviews outside of the UK, their words are repackaged and hyped beyond whag they ever were. Everton fans are well aware of that, they’ve seen it happen repeatedly with Romelu Lukaku and others.
However, almost the reverse seems to be happening with Ronald Koeman and his chats with the Catalan media. What he’s actually been asked, and what he’s actually said, has somewhat been repackaged to make it sound less sensational.
On Thursday Koeman spoke at his Everton press conference and made it very clear he doesn’t intend to leave the club before the end of his contract. Those comments in isolation tell one story, his comments to the Catalan media tell another.
It’s worth reiterating what Sport reported on Thursday, with the Catalan newspaper devoting the first five pages of their edition to a chat with the Everton manager. They wasted no time, and jumped straight with what everyone knew the reason for the interview was.
Journalist Toni Frieros: “You know what I’m going to ask you.”
Koeman: “I can imagine it (with a broad smile).”
Frieros: “You appear in all the lists to take over from Luis Enrique at Barca.”
Koeman: “I feel flattered and I like that you think of me.”
Frieros: “The most important thing is to know what you think…”
Koeman: “(Long silence) You see, everyone knows that I am from Barca, they know my love for a club where I grew up as a player and as a person.”
Frieros: “Would you like to be chosen?”
Koeman: “Look, in my life as a professional coach I have two dreams to fulfil. One, coach the selection of my country, Holland. I have been able to do so, but my obligation to Everton has prevented me.”
Frieros: “And your other dream?”
Koeman: “My other wish, my other dream, is to one day coach Barca. That’s the truth.”
Frieros: “You put a lot of emphasis and accent on ‘one day’…”
Koeman: “Yes, because I now owe to Everton. We have a very powerful and exciting project and we will reinforce our best to try to reach next season the Champions League.”
Frieros: “What if the club called?”
Koeman: “That is a hypothesis in which we cannot enter too much. In football, as in life, as in business, everything can be talked about and discussed.”
That is very clearly not Ronald Koeman ruling himself out of the Barcelona job now, or for the foreseeable future. Comparing it to a player, it’s pretty much ‘in football, anything can happen.’
On Friday it’s Mundo Deportivo’s turn with Koeman, and they travelled to Everton’s facilities to interview the manager.
Lorea Bakero asked the question: “Barca have not yet announced who will succeed Luis Enrique. Your name appears in the list. Would you like to train Barca?”
This wasn’t a general question, the weighting was very much about now, and Koeman replied: “Everyone knows the answer to that question. Of course I would.”
Asked if his coaching style suits Barcelona, Koeman explained: “That is not important. I don’t decide on this subject. It’s complicated for me. I’m at Everton and I have to respect the club, my contract and my work here. The future will tell.”
Pressed on what qualities Barcelona’s next coach needs, Everton’s manager insisted the ideal candidate needs to know the club well: “Experience, to know the house and the way that Barca wants to play. And most importantly, as for a coach of any team, they are able to get the most out of their players.”
On whether having Barca DNA is important, Koeman said: “Yes. Because it is sometimes complicated club, it is important to know the house well, to be familiar with the game and system. The coach should be a fan of playing with an offensive system, to attack.”
The frontrunners for the Barcelona job, Ernesto Valverde and Jorge Sampaoli, don’t have Barca DNA. Ronald Koeman, though, is quite far down the list, which is something he must know.
He is on the list, which would give some hope, and the Everton manager’s comments make it clear he wouldn’t rule out a move in the unlikely event he’s approached this summer.
Comments during Everton’s weekly press conference may have been different, but then it’s not uncommon to pick a different speech for a different audience. To the Catalan media, Koeman is flirting with the Barca job, and even the possibility of getting it this summer, for his English audience that’s completely ruled out.