Barcelona sign Jordi Cruyff from Shenzhen FC as Ronald Koeman stays on as coach

Chinese Super League’s worst-kept secret is finally out. After weeks of intense speculation, Jordi Cruyff was finally confirmed as Barcelona’s assistant sporting director as club president Joan Laporta’s push to return the Spanish powerhouse to its former glory continues apace.

Cruyff had one year left on his contract with Shenzhen FC, but multiple Chinese media outlets have revealed that the 47-year-old, whose father Johan Cruyff was one of Barcelona’s best players and master tacticians, had long planned to give up his role as Shenzhen head coach since Laporta, who won the presidential election by a landslide in March, offered him a path to return to Camp Nou.

“Mr. Jordi Cruyff has stepped down as the first team coach of Shenzhen Football Club to take up a position at FC Barcelona,” read a Shenzhen statement on Thursday night. “Shenzhen FC and FC Barcelona will explore the possibility of cooperation in youth training construction, coaching staff training, cultural exchange and business development in the future.”

It is understood that Shenzhen did not put up any obstacles after learning of Cruyff’s determination to switch CSL for La Liga, and Spanish coach Jose Carlos Granero was quickly appointed as Cruyff’s replacement.

Barcelona also acknowledged Shenzhen’s generosity as they confirmed Cruyff, who played at Camp Nou from 1993 to 1996, returns “in a strategic role.”

“His arrival has been possible thanks to the collaboration of the Chinese team, Shenzhen FC, whom he joined as coach in 2020, the Kaisa group and the president of the Chinese team, Kwok Ying Shing,” Barca said.

“All played a decisive role in facilitating his departure to FC Barcelona, despite still having a contract in force, and we will therefore be happy to seek future possibilities of collaboration.”

Despite being the first CSL coach to stand down this season, Cruyff has done an impressive job in Shenzhen after guiding the club to two wins and two draws in their first five outings. They currently sit sixth in the table and only three points adrift of league leaders Shanghai Port FC.

Meanwhile, Barcelona announced that Ronald Koeman will remain as coach amid rumors that the 58-year-old could be sacked after a season in which the club went out of the Champions League in the last 16 and lost the La Liga title to Atletico Madrid.

Laporta had said the club was considering whether to keep Koeman after a frustrating campaign, but he has opted for “continuity” after a meeting of the club’s board of directors.

“We needed this period to get to know each other, we needed to find solutions to whatever disagreements we might have had,” Laporta said. “We reached the conclusion that this is what is best for Barcelona and for Koeman.”

Laporta dismissed the notion that Koeman only stayed because Barcelona cannot afford to end his contract ahead of time due to coronavirus-induced financial troubles.

“We could have ended the contract if we wanted to,” Laporta insisted. “We are very satisfied to be able to continue this relationship. We see a coach who is very motivated and who already has a year of experience with the club. I think that he comes out of it reinforced. He is the coach we want.  I hope Barcelona will be a more competitive team, with a winning mentality and a style of game that is more attack-minded.”

He added that contract negotiations with Lionel Messi were “going well” and that he wants to stay.

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