LONDON (Reuters) - Everton manager Ronald Koeman reaffirmed his commitment to the Premier League club on Thursday, knocking down speculation of a move to his former club Barcelona.
The former defender, who took over at Goodison Park in June, made no secret of his desire to manage the Catalan club in the future but said he would see out his three-year contract.
“I am really happy to be in Everton, I am looking forward for next season,” the Dutchman told reporters ahead of Everton’s league trip to Swansea City on Saturday. “It’s a big project and I will be part of that project.”
“There’s no chance that I will leave Everton before the end of my contract.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Barcelona’s first European Cup triumph at Wembley Stadium, when Koeman scored the extra-time winner against Italy’s Sampdoria.
Barcelona’s current coach Luis Enrique is leaving the Spanish champions at the end of the season and Spanish media have linked Koeman with a return to the Nou Camp.
Everton sit seventh in the Premier League and Koeman said new players would be brought to help challenge next season for a Champions League place.
”Already in this season we showed we are close but not close enough,“ he said. ”We know what we need to improve and to make this team and squad stronger.
“We’re going to strengthen as best as possible to try and reach the Champions League next season.”
Koeman confirmed that out-of-favour striker Arouna Kone from Ivory Coast would be leaving.
“Arouna has finished his contract and will leave the club at end of the season,” he said.
Kone, 33, has played seven matches as a substitute this season in all competitions. He was linked to league rivals Crystal Palace during the last January transfer window.
The Liverpool Echo reported that several Premier League clubs had expressed an interest.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Richard Lough