La Liga 'lacking star player' after Messi's Barcelona exit
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Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has jumped to the defence of fellow compatriot and Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, stating the Catalans “always look at the foreigners” when things go wrong. Koeman’s second season in charge of the La Liga giants has started horribly in all competitions.
Fans of the five-time European champions who were dissatisfied with last season’s performance, when they finished in third place, are even angrier with the club currently languishing in ninth place in La Liga.
Koeman’s tenability as Barca manager has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, with the side struggling immensely since Lionel Messi’s exit to Paris Saint-Germain over the summer.
As well as languishing just above mid-table in the league, their Champions League campaign has started abysmally with back-to-back 3-0 defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica.
Despite their poor form, Van Gaal, who also managed Barcelona on two occasions between 1997 and 2002, and 2002-2003, defended his compatriot by suggesting foreign players and managers are often made scapegoats at the club.
“When things go bad, people at Barcelona always look at the foreigners. And in this case, the coach is also a foreigner and a Dutchman,” said Van Gaal.
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“I have experienced that, too. History repeats itself.”
Van Gaal is currently the manager of the Dutch national team, where he has begun his second stint as boss of the Oranje with three wins and a draw.
He is also managing Barcelona stars Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong, who have also found themselves on the sharp end of criticism in Spain.
And Van Gaal came to the defence of his countrymen, in particular midfielder De Jong, stating his contributions since arriving from Ajax for £65m should not be forgotten.
“If everything is going smoothly, and you have great contributions that Frenkie has made in the past two years, then there is nothing to worry about,” he continued.
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“But I think Frenkie handles it very well, and Ronald, and Luuk de Jong and Memphis, too.
“I don’t think that’s the biggest problem.
“At the moment, they are trying to do everything they can.
“I’ve never had a striker like Memphis who runs so much, comes so deep and gets on the ball so much. That’s commendable.”
The 70-year-old boss also said Frenkie’s difficulties could be down to the fact he has to play in a different position at the Camp Nou than he did for Ajax and the national team.
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“It is what Sergio Busquets occupies,” said Van Gaal.
“He plays centre midfield for me. I’ve played in that position myself and normally you don’t have to run a lot, but he does.
“Sometimes I think ‘Frenkie, you run too much’.”
The Netherlands take on European minnows Gibraltar in their next World Cup qualifier on Monday, before traveling to face Montenegro.
Their international break will conclude with a difficult home match against Norway, where they will have to try and shackle goal machine Erling Haaland.
Beating the Scandavian nation would put Van Gaal’s men five points clear at the top of Group F and in the driving seat to secure their place at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
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