Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has admitted it was a ‘b*tch’ to lose Antoine Griezmann to Atletico Madrid late in the transfer window because it left no time to secure a replacement.
Griezmann’s exit enormously helped with the club’s financial situation and Barça did complete the loan signing of Sevilla striker Luuk de Jong, but Koeman insists the Dutch international had already been a target for several weeks before that deal was agreed.
Griezmann will make Atletico stronger and proved his class again by netting twice for France against Finland on Tuesday night to move level with national legend Michel Platini on Les Bleus’ list of all-time top scorers.
“It was a b**ch,” Koeman told SPORT of the timing of the Frenchman’s departure.
“The aggravation that the deadline passed, with practically no time to find a solution. Griezmann had a great contract and if he left he was going to help improve the financial situation of the club. That is why I agreed to his departure.”
The boss insists that De Jong wasn’t intended as a replacement, explaining: “I had already spoken with him since the beginning of August to study the possibility of incorporating him.
“I wanted a forward different from what I had and I thought of him because I know him very well. In fact, I was wondering how it is possible that Barça never had a forward like Luuk. He is going to give us many variants, especially potential in the air. With him, you can play a more direct football.”
Koeman, who was keen to compromise and help the club where he could by letting members of his squad be sold to address the financial crisis, said there was a similar situation to Griezmann with Emerson Royal. The Brazilian full-back joined Tottenham for around €30m.
“I told the club that if it is important to raise money, Emerson can be sold because we have [Sergino] Dest, [Oscar] Mingueza and even Sergi Roberto,” the coach explained. “I was not uncompromising in that sense, because I could have told them, ‘No, he doesn’t leave here’.”
Despite the difficult circumstances the club finds itself in, which has also included the shock exit of Lionel Messi, Koeman has every intention to stay at Camp Nou for the long-term.
“I am very excited to continue as Barça coach for many years, despite the difficult moments in the club today,” he said. “I think that thanks to our decisions, coach and technical staff, Barça has young players with a huge immediate future and hopefully in three, four or five years I can continue.”