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Barcelona insist Messi is key part of plans for Ronald Koeman

RONALD KOEMAN has indicated he will put Lionel Messi (pictured) at the heart of his plans if, as expected, he is unveiled as Barcelona’s new boss this week.

The former Everton manager is negotiating his exit from his position as Holland coach so he can replace Quique Setien, who was sacked in the wake of their 8-2 Champions League quarter-final humiliation by Bayern Munich.

Koeman has made it clear he wants to rejoin the club for whom he scored the winner in the 1992 European Cup final during six successful years.

‘Yes, I’d like to but it will only be confirmed once I have signed the contract,’ said the 57-year-old.

‘Until then, I cannot say any more about it — even though I’d like to.’

Koeman, appointed as the Dutch boss in 2018, faces difficult conversations in his homeland before he can replace Setien at Barca, who also sacked director of football Eric Abidal yesterday.

‘I didn’t expect things to go so fast and it is not the best timing,’ Koeman said. ‘It took me by surprise but Barcelona is the only club for which I had a release clause in my contract. It’s ugly for the Dutch FA but not unexpected.’

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu hopes appointing Koeman will end speculation over Messi’s future.

‘I have spoken with Koeman and the pillar of our project is Messi,’ Bartomeu said last night. ‘He has a contract until 2021, I speak a lot with Leo and more regularly with his father.

‘There is no doubt in Koeman’s new project you can count on Messi.’