Barça through with Koeman: club looking for new manager
Joan Laporta and his collaborators believe the season cannot get back on track without a change in the dugout
BarcelonaBarça will dismiss Ronald Koeman when it has found a replacement. Several blaugrana sources tell ARA that the Dutch manager has exhausted his credit and will leave the position in the coming weeks, without a concrete date in a month that will see the team playing every three days until the international break in October. Monday's dismal draw against Granada in La Liga, in which the team based its reaction plan to overcoming Duarte's initial goal was to send long balls in to the box, reinforces president Joan Laporta and his collaborators' ideas, who believe the season cannot get back on track without a change of management. Only a radical turn of events on the pitch, or a lack of internal consensus on an alternative that wants to be associated with the start of a project, can change the Dutchman's predictable fate.
Now the economic issue will not be a problem, as advanced by vice president Eduard Romeu. Unlike what happened at the end of May, when Laporta had to assume the continuity of a coach who was not of his footballing taste, Barça does have money to face a dismissal valued at about €12m, an amount that will take spending on managers since Ernesto Valverde's departure in early 2020 up to €32m. This measure, which will not be executed until there is a replacement, will be Laporta's first sacking of a manager (in his first stage he sacked no managers) and will clash with the message the president sent a couple of weeks ago, saying off the record that Koeman's contract would be renewed if he changed his style, which seemed highly unlikely.
Team performances are the first argument for those responsible for Barça to conclude that it is a change is necessary, but not the only one. Recent statements by Koeman and his representative, Rob Jansen, in relation to the mistreatment they believed they suffered at the end of last season, when Laporta acknowledged that they were looking for coach, haven't helped. In a documentary, Koeman criticised the president for leaving him "with uncertainty" at the end of May, while his agent accused Laporta of "high-level hypocrisy" in that tug of war. On the other hand, as reported by GOAL and confirmed by ARA, the board believes it is important for members and fans to be excited about a change of coach before the assembly in mid-October, in which vital decisions will be taken for the viability of the club in the short term. Play, as always, conditions the rest.
Hours after the disappointing 1-1 draw against Granada, Laporta recorded another video for supporters. With a serious and worried gesture, the president explained: "These are difficult times, but we have to be there (...) Whatever happens [on Thursday] in Cadiz, I ask you to continue to support the team, which needs it. Be calm, because we know what we have to do and we'll fix it". Again, and as happened in the wake of Barça-Bayern, no word of encouragement for the current coaching staff.
Xavi generates more consensus among fans than in the club
The next few days will be key for Laporta and co. to decide who they will trust to get the team back on track. Jordi Cruyff having self-discarded himself in deference to Koeman, the debate again centres on Xavi Hernández. He is the candidate that arouses the most consensus among fans, but generates doubts in the club's management and especially Laporta, who in May resisted the pressure of some managers who asked him to bet on the current coach of Al-Sadd. The talks did not go beyond informality and the former footballer stayed in Qatar. Four months later, there has still been no serious contact.
Andres Iniesta, who is ending his career in Japan's Vissel Kobe, has spoken about his teammate Xavi and the possibility that he sits on Barça's bench in the short term. In an interview with GOAL the Spaniard said: "I can imagine him coming back to coach the first team. He is fully prepared after many years of work and also has the confidence to face this challenge". In the same appearance, Iniesta said that he sees himself returning to Barcelona. "There are days when I imagine as a coach and others not," he added.
The alternatives to Xavi, who now (as in May) could leave Qatar in exchange for a small escape clause, are the Catalan Robert Martinez, Belgian National Coach; Erik ten Hag, coach of Ajax; and Albert Capellas, although there might be some other unknown candidates. Out of these, only Capellas could be fast-tracked. The Avignon-born former Danish U-21 coach is a staunch advocate of positional play and has Jordi Cruyff's backing, whom he assisted at Chongqing in China. The adviser to the sporting direction also maintains a good relationship with Bob Martinez.