'He is a brave and clear-headed coach' - Barcelona presidential candidate pledges loyalty to Koeman

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Xavi Vilajoana would stand by Ronald Koeman as Barcelona coach if he is elected president of the club, hailing the Dutchman as a "brave and clear-headed" option in an interview with Goal.

The long-term board member, youth director of football under previous supremo Josep Maria Bartomeu's reign, is one of several candidates waging an election campaign to take the reins in January following the latter's resignation.

With the decision set to be made just over three weeks into the new year, whoever takes charge at Camp Nou will inherit a club fractured by on and off-field turmoil after a barren 2019-20 campaign brought the curtain down on a decade of near-unrivalled success.

Lionel Messi could depart the club next summer, while questions remain over the suitability of former Netherlands boss Koeman for the top job, despite the 57-year-old's long association with the Catalan outfit.

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But Vilajoana has stressed the ex-Southampton and Everton boss would have his backing if he was to take overall charge, hailing his character as crucial to helping Barca weather a likely transition period over the next few seasons.

"Koeman, as Barcelona boss, is a brave and clear-headed coach," the prospective candidate said. "He is leading a team through a process of transformation and that takes time.

"Anyone who has played football will know that everything requires time. [If I take charge], Koeman would still be the coach."

Vilajoana's stance is in contrast to fellow presidential candidate Victor Font, who has made no secret of his desire to bring Xavi back to the club as head coach.

Vilajoana further opened up on the intentions behind his decision to run as a replacement for Bartomeu, noting that he sees himself as a man enshrined within the club's dynamics and values that he finds absent in other prospective runners.

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"I present myself as a natural evolution, because the moment right now makes me think that the club needs people with knowledge," he added. "[It needs people] with a love for the institution above all else and who can make decisions for the benefit of it.

"I have been at the club for 20 years. I know what joys and disappointments mean and I believe that any future projects have to be based on the knowledge, experience and esteem of the club, with involvement and generosity. I don't see these values in any other candidate."

Elsewhere, Vilajoana ruled out any attempt to lure Neymar back to Camp Nou following the Brazil international's acrimonious exit to Paris Saint-Germain, while further outlining his plans to address Messi's future at the club if elected.

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