Dubai: Some say the writing was on the wall for Ronald Koeman after Barcelona lost against Real Madrid in the Clasico last weekend. Others say it was after they were thrashed 3-0 in the Champions League a few weeks ago by Bayern Munich. Some believe it was after yet another 3-0 debacle against Benfica in Europe’s most glamourous competition. I reckon the sacking of the Dutch coach was inevitable the moment the club was forced to allow their star man Lionel Messi leave this summer.
Barcelona’s financial situation is well documented. The Spanish giants are totally broke. Penniless. They didn’t just lose the amazing Argentinian, they also could not afford to keep fellow strikers Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann. These three were major players for the team and doing without just one of them would have negatively affected performances and results. But with all three departing for pastures new, everyone knew the team would struggle and Koeman had no chance on making them competitive. 14 months after being hired as boss, he has bitten the bullet.
The club needed to act following another disappointing defeat in the La Liga last night against Rayo Vallecano. In the league, Barca sit in mid table after winning just 15 points from 10 games. That is just not good enough. Aside from the poor results, the team has been playing with very little cohesion or style. The attacks are sporadic and the defence looks vulnerable. It is a far cry from the Barca teams of the past.
Pressure has been mounting on Koeman who arrived at the Nou Camp in 2020. His last proper season was with English Premier League club Everton in the 2016–17 season where he managed the team to finish 7th with 17 wins from 38 matches. It was hardly spectacular but following a similarly underwhelming spell as Netherlands coach, Barca felt he was the right man to replace Quique Setien who was sacked following the aftermath of the club’s disastrous 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
You can understand why he was appointed - he was a highly successful Barca player before and loved by the fans and was familiar with the club’s philosophy. He won the Copa del Rey at the end of his first season and guided the five-time European champions to third place in the league last season. But it's all gone wrong this campaign and only now are the club feeling the loss of their former star man Messi.
Koeman has been billed as a coach known for his man management and his tactics but there has been very little evidence of this at the Nou Camp, or as the Netherlands coach or indeed during his spell at Goodison Park and before that as Southampton boss. In one respect, you kind of feel sorry for the 58-year-old; he has had his hands tied behind his back and been told to do cartwheels by Barca president Laporta. The club’s financial situation is appalling and Koeman may have known he wasn’t going to be supported on the transfer front. But when a club of this magnitude comes knocking, you simply cannot turn them down. He took on the job but it hasn’t panned out as he would have wanted.
The search for his successor will have likely have begun months ago. Club legend Xavi, the former midfielder and currently managing Qatari side Al Sadd, is the favourite to be appointed as the new coach. Will he be able to turn the team’s fortunes around? Time will tell but one thing is for certain, Barcelona cannot carry on the way they are going. But, you know what they say - when you think it can't get any worse, it always does...