October 21, 2021

Suarez joining Juventus instead of Atletico Madrid ‘would have been better’ for Barcelona – Koeman

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The Blaugrana boss says it was a “tough decision” for the club to offload the striker, but one that he believes was correct at the time

Ronald Koeman has admitted that Luis Suarez joining Juventus instead of Atletico Madrid “would have been better” for Barcelona.

Suarez’s hugely successful six-year career at Camp Nou came to an end when he left the club to join Atletico in a €6 million (£5m/$7m) deal during the summer transfer window.

Koeman deemed the Uruguayan surplus to requirements after being appointed as the Blaugrana’s new permanent coach, with the Rojiblancos ultimately winning the race for his signature ahead of Serie A giants Juventus.

Suarez was heavily linked with the Bianconeri for months, but the proposed move eventually fell through after a drawn-out saga which saw him accused of cheating in a language test after submitting his Italian citizenship application.

Atletico capitalised on the situation by swooping in with a two-year contract for the 34-year-old, who has been an instant hit at Wanda Metropolitano.

The former Barca star has hit 14 goals in his first 16 La Liga outings for Diego Simeone’s side, helping them open up a 10-point lead at the top of the table in the process.

Koeman has now conceded that it wasn’t the ideal scenario for Suarez to join a Spanish top-flight rival, but he still believes the Blaugrana made the right decision when sanctioning his departure.

The Barca boss told The Athletic of the striker’s move to Madrid: “It’s part of your job. You speak to the club — and when I came as a coach to Barcelona, we had our opinions and I had the information out of the club — and then finally you make decisions.

“You need to make these decisions because if it goes well then it’s OK, but if it doesn’t go well, then it needs to be my way and that’s the most important thing.

“We are changing and of course, it would have been better that Luis Suarez signed for Juventus instead of Atletico Madrid because he’s still in the Spanish league.

“But that kind of decision, we had to make it, really tough ones but showing respect to the player, and I think that’s really important. And I still agree with what we did at that time.”

Barca moved up to second in the Liga standings after a 2-1 home win against Athletic Club at the weekend, but they have played a game more than pacesetters Atletico, who look destined to win their first title since 2013-14.

Koeman’s side are still in contention for Champions League and Copa del Rey honours, but the Dutchman wouldn’t consider the season a failure if no trophies are brought back to Camp Nou come May.

He added: “Nobody told me, ‘You need to win something’. Everybody in the club realises that we are in a season of transition, and of course, we like to compete for the titles, for the cups, for the league, but they know they cannot expect that we will win the Champions League.

“Maybe we can beat PSG (in the last 16 in a fortnight), maybe we can get to the semi-final, but more clubs are better at this moment, they are more favourites to win something big than Barcelona is.

“But Barcelona will come back, no problem.”