Ronald Koeman is not surprised to see his name linked with a return to Barcelona, but he insists he will see out the remainder of his contract at Southampton.
The former Holland international defender was installed as Mauricio Pochettino’s successor at St Mary’s ahead of the current season, having previously led Ajax and PSV Eindhoven to the league title in his homeland, before moving to Spain where he won the Copa del Rey with Valencia. And he has continue to impress in England, with the Saints in contention for a place in the UEFA Champions League.
Although Barca closed the gap on La Liga leaders Real Madrid to just two points over the weekend, there has been widespread speculation that Luis Enrique, who is thought to have a fraught relationship with star player Lionel Messi, could be dismissed in the summer regardless of what they go on to achieve. And Koeman, a popular figure in Catalonia, has been touted as his possible replacement.
Koeman enjoyed a six-year stint as a player with the Spanish giants, from 1989 to 1995. During this time he helped La Blaugrana to four league titles, a Copa del Rey and, in 1992, the European Cup when his goal was enough to defeat Sampdoria at the Wembley final. So whilst a return to the Camp Nou would be something of a dream, the 51-year-old insists such an opportunity is one for the future.
“I have been linked with Barcelona in the past and I will be in the future but I can’t do anything about that,” Koeman said. “I like to respect my contract and I am very happy in my job. The future does not mean this season, it maybe means about seven years – you never know. Of course I had a great time there. The longest period of my time as a player was at Barcelona and it’s normal that I have that feeling with them and they have that feeling with me, but there is no reason to be afraid about that.”
Koeman, who has led Southampton to 14 wins from 24 matches in the Premier League this season, remains under contract at the club until the end of the 2016/17 campaign. At present, his side are third in the table ahead of the visit of West Ham United on Wednesday evening, yet Manchester United lurk just a point behind with Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are also within three points.