Ronald Koeman remained optimistic about the future after Barcelona kicked off their pre-season campaign with a hard-fought 4-0 win over Gimnastic in 10 men at Estadi Johan Cruyff.
Albania striker Rey Manaj, who has never played an official match for Barça and is expected to move to this window, scored a hat-trick in the second half in Wednesday’s friendly in front of around 2,000 fans.
Alex Collado scored the other goal for Barcelona, but the match was not as one-sided as the score suggests as three of the four goals were scored in the last five minutes.
Koeman named a different lineup in each half, with the likes of Sergino Dest, Gerard Pique, Miralem Pjanic, Sergi Roberto, Riqui Puig and Samuel Umtiti starting the match.
New signing Yusuf Demir, who came on loan from Rapid Vienna and described as the “Austrian Messi” for his style of play, also played his first 45 minutes with the Catalan giants.
The second half saw a much more inexperienced team deploy and contained only one player, scorer Collado, with a competitive presence for Barça behind him.
Manaj stole the show with his three goals, the best choice of those ending angled into the roof of the net when Gimnastic, who had Alex Quintanilla sent off in the first half, began to tire.
Without Lionel Messi as the superstar’s forward delaying signing a new contract, as well as new signings Eric Garcia, Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay, Koeman was pleased with what he saw.
“The important thing is that everyone played 45 minutes; it’s something that’s important to the physical side of things, “he told Barca TV.
“We dominated and got a good result. The game leaves a positive feeling.
“My players have returned well. Even this morning they trained hard: it’s all about getting fit. With two different teams, everyone had a chance to show their qualities.
“It goes without saying that there are some names that have stood out.”
FULL TIME! pic.twitter.com/aqLWPPh5fe
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 21, 2021
After a season played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday’s game marked the first time that Koeman has managed Barça in front of a home crowd.
“It was strange to have people here, but luckily they were here,” said the Dutchman.
“I like that there is an audience and the players do too. They helped us. We really needed it. ‘
Barca face tougher tests than third division Gimnastic, with Girona scheduled for Saturday before facing Stuttgart and Salzburg in Germany and Austria, respectively.
“We will have more players available on Saturday,” added Koeman. “We have some time now to train all together.
In Germany we will play good matches, against high level rivals, where we will be able to draw good conclusions ”.