Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman said he was badly affected by the arrest of former president Josep Bartomeu and called the man who hired him an ‘exceptional person’, while conceding the case was damaging for the club’s reputation.
Bartomeu, who hired Koeman last August but resigned as president in October to avoid facing a vote of no-confidence, was arrested on Monday along with chief executive Oscar Grau and two others for their alleged roles in ‘Barcagate’.
The pair were released on Tuesday although the investigation, which began last year before Koeman joined as coach, remains open.
Ronald Koeman says he was left ‘devastated’ by Josep Bartomeu’s arrest on Monday
Ex-president Bartomeu is being investigated by police over an alleged smear campaign
‘When I heard the news I was devastated because I know Bartomeu and Grau well,’ Koeman said ahead of Barca’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at home to Sevilla, when they will be hoping to overturn a 2-0 deficit.
‘I feel bad for them, I had good moments with them in a short space of time and Bartomeu has always been an exceptional person to me.
‘It’s not good for the image of the club but we have to wait and see what happens (with the investigation).
‘I wasn’t here then so I can’t talk about it, we just have to focus on our job and in turning the tie around tomorrow.’
Monday’s police operation was related to last year’s ‘Barcagate’, in which club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then president Bartomeu.
Star man Lionel Messi was among those targeted by negative stories and social media posts
Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Pep Guardiola, their former manager and now Manchester City boss, were among those targeted by the negative stories and social media posts.
Barca have been in the hands of an interim management committee led by acting President Carles Tusquets since Bartomeu resigned but members will elect a new leader in an election on Sunday.
Bartomeu’s arrest is the latest episode in a long line of institutional problems the club has experienced in the last year, including a growing financial crisis.
However, Koeman insists he has no regrets in accepting the job as coach.
Koeman said he had no regrets in accepting the job as coach, despite the ongoing turmoil
‘You never know what’s going to happen in the future. When Barca called me I was convinced I had to take the job,’ he said.
‘I knew it was a difficult moment, the club was losing money and had to make changes to the squad and put its faith in young players but I have tried to do my best and what I felt was right.
‘Life is full of ups and downs and opportunities and problems and you have to try and resolve them.’
Barca beat Sevilla 2-0 away on Saturday in LaLiga and have been boosted by teenage midfielder Pedri making a quick recovery from a muscle injury although defender Ronald Araujo is a serious doubt.