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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 9 March 2021

Luis Suarez had chance to stay and fight for Barcelona place, insists Ronald Koeman

Uruguayan striker has taken parting shots at former club after leaving for Atletico Madrid

Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has said Luis Suarez was given the opportunity to stay and fight for his place in response to the Uruguayan striker's critical comments regarding his exit.

Suarez left Barca for La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid this summer after six hugely successful seasons at Camp Nou. The 33-year-old forward has since made his feelings clear about the manner of his departure, claiming he was shown a lack of respect having played a central role in helping the club land four La Liga titles, four Copa del Reys, and the 2015 Champions League.

"I spent six years there and felt I had earned respect," said Suarez, who left Barcelona placed third in the club's all-time goalscorer standings.

"I deserved to know my fate before I found out from the press. Also the coach Ronald Koeman came to me saying that he doesn't count on me.

"But that was after the leadership of the club had already said there was going to be a change of players. That raises doubts about whether it was the coach's decision or a directive from above."

However, Koeman, who was appointed Barcelona manager during the off-season, has refuted Suarez's version of events, insisting the Uruguayan was given the opportunity to stay.

"In the case of Suarez, it had become very difficult for him to start playing and I made that known to him. He found it difficult, but I never had any trouble with him at all," Koeman told NOS.

"He trained normally, trained well. He finally made the choice to leave and I said: 'If you don't leave, for whatever reason, then you are just one of the group, then you can prove that I was wrong'. He could have stayed, yes.

"I'm good with Luis, but the club felt that we had to rejuvenate. You can see that now in the team.

"Ansu Fati plays, he is 17 years old. We have Pedri, 17 years old, who gets his chances. Ronald Araujo is there at the age of 21. Trincao falls in a lot and is 20 years old, and we have taken Sergino Dest, who is 19. Those are all players for the future."

Ronald Koeman has said he has spoken with Lionel Messi about Luis Suarez's exit from Barcelona. Reuters
Ronald Koeman has said he has spoken with Lionel Messi about Luis Suarez's exit from Barcelona. Reuters

The manner of Suarez's exit not only irked the player himself but also Lionel Messi, who posted a glowing tribute to his former teammate and close friend on Instagram while using the same post to criticise the Barcelona board.

Messi, 33, has become increasingly disillusioned with life at Barcelona and this summer handed in a transfer request. The Argentine star, who has entered the final year of his contract, has remained at the club but Suarez's departure has hardly helped to convince him to stay beyond the current season.

"If you have someone in the locker room with whom you and your wife and children also hang out outside football, then such a reaction makes sense," Koeman said.

"I also said that to Messi: 'I understand that you are disappointed and think it is a terrible shame that he is leaving, but these are choices of the club'."

Published: October 12, 2020 11:49 AM

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