The Uruguay international was pushed out of the club and ended up joining Atletico Madrid, but the coach insists he could have stuck around Camp Nou
Ronald Koeman says Luis Suarez could have stayed at Barcelona to prove him wrong instead of moving to Atletico Madrid.
The Uruguayan attacker was deemed surplus to requirements after the Catalan side’s disappointing 2019-20 campaign and subsequently joined Diego Simeone’s team after seeing a move to Juventus fall through.
Suarez had spent a successful six-year spell at Camp Nou, winning the Champions League along with four La Liga titles among other trophies, and managed to net 21 times in 36 appearances in all competitions in his final season at the club.
The 33-year-old had a bright start to his Atleti career when he scored two and set up another in his debut appearance.
Koeman says he was happy with the former Ajax and Liverpool star and maintains he did not have to leave if he did not want to.
“In the case of Suarez, it had become very difficult for him to start playing and I made that known to him. He found it difficult, but I never had any trouble with him at all,” Koeman told NOS.
“He trained normally, trained well. He finally made the choice to leave and I said: ‘If you don’t leave, for whatever reason, then you are just one of the group, then you can prove that I was wrong’. He could have stayed, yes.
“I’m good with Luis, but the club felt that we had to rejuvenate. You can see that now in the team. Ansu Fati plays, he is 17 years old. We have Pedri, 17 years old, who gets his chances. Ronald Araujo is there at the age of 21. Trincao falls in a lot and is 20 years old, and we have taken Sergino Dest, who is 19. Those are all players for the future.”
Lionel Messi criticised the club’s decision to push Suarez out, taking to Instagram to tell his former team-mate that he deserved better treatment.
Koeman says he understood the Argentina star’s frustration and says he has discussed the situation with him.
“If you have someone in the locker room with whom you and your wife and children also hang out outside football, then such a reaction makes sense.
“I also said that to Messi: ‘I understand that you are disappointed and think it is a terrible shame that he is leaving, but these are choices of the club’.”
Messi also wanted to leave Barca before the season started, though he decided to stay because he did not want to take the club to court over the issue.
Koeman says the 33-year-old has performed well despite his disappointment and is happy with his conduct.
“After signing here, I immediately contacted Leo. I went to his house and talked to him about his future,” he added.
“He was clear about his dissatisfaction. In the end it worked out well and from the moment he indicated: ‘I’m going for it’, he has done everything I expect of him.”