Premier League • England

Ronald Koeman reveals all on failed standout Liverpool raid, claiming Barcelona chief gladly ruined plan

Ronald Koeman, September 2022

Former Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has claimed that Joan Laporta refused to sign Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool just to “annoy” him.

The La Liga side have been in the spotlight for a number of seasons now over their finances and recruitment strategy. This summer, they spent big on Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski despite a mountain of debt.

Laporta, who is in his second spell at the top of Barcelona, exercised financial ‘levers’. That has meant long-term deals paying for the club’s recent transfers.

But as well as their big spend on the aforementioned duo, they have also looked to sign lucrative free agents in recent transfer windows. Indeed, they picked up Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie this summer.

Before then – and before Xavi took over from Koeman – former Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum was on their radar. The Dutchman, who had worked with his compatriot for the Netherlands, wanted to reunite with the 31-year-old.

But ex-Everton boss Koeman has now claimed that Laporta had an agenda against him, with the club’s Wijnaldum saga proof of it.

“I tried to sign Wijnaldum for Barca,” Koeman told AD.

“But I failed because the President wanted to annoy me more than bringing in a player.

“That delayed the operation and, for that reason, he opted for PSG. Otherwise, he would have played for Barcelona.”

Wijnaldum career has taken turn for worse

Wijnaldum joined Mauricio Pochettino’s Paris Saint-Germain project looking to be a part of history and end the French giants’ Champions League hoodoo.

However, the Parisians suffered a knock-out stage collapse against Real Madrid, throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2. And overall, Wijnaldum only played a bit-part role in his one season there.

He admitted last November that he was struggling to adapt and subsequently left for Roma this summer.

However, after dropping out of the Netherlands squad for June’s Nations League programme, his Roma spell got off to the worst possible start after he broke his leg in August.

His chance to be fit enough for the World Cup is now in doubt, let alone whether his form merits his place.

Former Liverpool man looking for stability

It is fair to say that Wijnaldum’s career has nosedived since he left Liverpool.

He barely missed a game for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds and was a major driving force in their recent success.

Perhaps if he had got his move to Barcelona, his fortunes may have been brighter.

However, he has had to accept a tough lack of minutes at PSG – tough compared to the regularity with which he played at Liverpool – and then a serious injury.

Wijnaldum will most likely have turned 32 by the time he fully gets up to speed.

And given his injury has occurred in his early thirties, it remains unclear if he will return to those heights.

What is clear is Wijnaldum will have self-belief that he can get back on track given his former success.

Looking to the future, Roma have an option to buy the midfielder. That option becomes mandatory if Roma qualify for the Champions League this season and has played at least 50 per cent of matches in all competitions.

He will therefore become a key protagonist leading up to next summer’s transfer window.