Ronald Koeman has done well at Barcelona in tough circumstances, according to Jordi Cruyff, who says the head coach has shown “a lot of merit” on and off the pitch.
Koeman, who enjoyed a stellar six-year career at Barca during his playing days, returned to Camp Nou to replace Quique Setien as the club’s new boss in August last year.
The Dutchman inherited a confidence-stricken squad and had to be the frontman amid a turbulent saga in the boardroom, but has managed to steady the ship during his first eight months in charge, leaving Cruyff impressed.
The former Barca midfielder told Cadena Ser: “Koeman has a lot of merit, not only for football. He has come to the club at a difficult time with respect to changing players, financial problems, all the institutional problems that were already there.
“I think dynamics are important in football. Let’s say there is a time when you see yourself capable of winning in any game. And have Barcelona recovered that feeling right now? Definitely.
“I believe that, in the end, the work [you put in] has a reward and he has already had it. I think that being a person who already knows the environment of the club also gave him a lot of advantages.”
The Blaugrana had just completed their first trophyless season in 12 years when Koeman was drafted in, and it has taken him time to turn the club’s fortunes around.
Inconsistency continued to plague Barca in the first half of the season as they fell well behind Atletico Madrid in the Liga title race, albeit while making steady progress in both the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
Koeman’s side turned a corner in early December, though, beginning an impressive unbeaten run in the top flight which they extended to 18 games with a 6-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad just before the international break.
Barca have closed the gap on Atletico to just four points during that period, and also have a Copa del Rey final against Athletic Club to look forward to next month.
The Catalan giants exited the Champions League early after losing to Paris Saint-Germain 5-2 on aggregate in the last 16, but they were also able to take confidence from a much-improved second-leg display after a heavy defeat in the opening fixture of the tie.
Koeman will hope his team’s scintillating form continues when they play host to Real Valladolid on April 4.
The 58-year-old will then start preparing his players for a Clasico meeting with arch-rivals Real Madrid, who are currently sitting just two points behind Barca in the Liga standings.