Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman reportedly used a curious tactic with his players ahead of the team’s last-16 Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain earlier this season.
The Dutch coach pinned a poster of PSG striker Kylian Mbappe up in the dressing room ahead of the crucial match to make it clear to his players that the World Cup winner was the number one enemy, according to L’Equipe .
It’s a curious move from Koeman given Mbappe hardly needs any introduction. The PSG star won the World Cup with France in 2018 and has gone on to pick up a host of trophies, including three league title since moving to PSG.
Koeman’s tactic does not appear to have worked particularly well either. Mbappe bagged a hat-trick in the first leg at the Camp Nou and was on target in the return in France as Mauricio Pochettino’s side won 5-2 on aggregate to progress to the quarter-finals.
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Koeman Talks UCL Exit
Barcelona’s exit at the hands of PSG means the club’s hunt for a first European Cup since 2015 continues. However, Koeman was fairly upbeat after the game in his news conference, as reported by Marca .
“We are eliminated, but we leave feeling good [about ourselves],” he said. “We had chances to make things difficult for the opposition. We played a great first half, we were superior, with a great attitude. We deserved more. At least a 1-2 at halftime. That would have made all the difference.”
The Barcelona boss also felt his team’s performance against last season’s beaten finalists could help convince Lionel Messi to stay at the club past the end of this season when his contract expires.
“In general, Leo has seen that the team is getting better and better,” Koeman added. “With the changes we’ve made, bringing in young players… Messi can have no doubts about the future of this team.”
Barcelona Backing Koeman
Barca’s European campaign may be over for another season but the team remains in contention in La Liga and the Copa del Rey. New president Joan Laporta has made it clear he has complete faith in the Dutchman for now.
Laporta spoke about Koeman at his unveiling as Barcelona president at the Camp Nou back in March, as reported by ESPN .
“Ronald, you have the board’s confidence. The team has improved and we have to get back to winning things,” he said. “If we fix things financially, we will be competitive once again in the Champions League. We can win La Liga and the Copa del Rey this season.”
Koeman has managed to turn the team’s form around after a disappointing start to the campaign, and there is genuine optimism the club can go on and pick up silverware this season.
The team is now just one point behind league leaders Atletico Madrid with nine games of the season left, including a visit from the Rojiblancos next month, and also faces Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on April 17.