After a disappointing season for Barcelona, the team has decided to part ways with head coach Ronald Koeman. The Catalan club is considering former FC Barcelona player and captain Xavi as their top pick for his new role.
Ronald Koeman has been sacked as manager of Barcelona after a disastrous start to the season. The club are now considering Xavi as their top pick to take over.
6:16 p.m. Eastern
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Barcelona fired coach Ronald Koeman after a 1-0 LaLiga loss to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, their third loss in their previous four league games.
Following Koeman’s departure, ESPN has learned that the club will have negotiations with Xavi Hernandez about the position on Friday, with the former team captain now the preferred candidate.
However, according to the same sources, Barca will not have a replacement until after the November international break. The next three games against Alaves, Dynamo Kiev, and Celta Vigo will be managed by an interim coach.
After a string of disappointing performances leading up to the October international break, Koeman’s position was severely damaged, with back-to-back losses against Real Madrid and Rayo this week proving to be the breaking point.
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With Barca failing to win an away game in any tournament this season, the 58-year-old leaves the club in ninth position in the league and in risk of missing out on the Champions League knockout round for the first time in 20 years.
“FC Barcelona has removed Ronald Koeman of his responsibilities as first-team coach,” the club announced in a statement. After the loss against Rayo Vallecano, the club’s president, Joan Laporta, notified him of the decision.
“On Thursday, Koeman will bid his players farewell at the Ciutat Esportiva. FC Barcelona wishes him the best of luck in his professional career and thanks him for his contribution to the club.”
In his 17 years as a professional player, Xavi, a 41-year-old former midfielder, won a flood of trophies with Barcelona, including eight LaLiga crowns and four Champions League medals. He later joined Al Sadd in 2015, and after retiring from football in 2019, he became the head coach of the Qatari club. So far, it’s his sole managing experience.
Along with Xavi, ESPN had reported that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez was also a contender.
In the summer, Laporta pondered firing Koeman and even informed him he needed two weeks to find a new manager. Laporta ultimately opted to continue with Koeman owing to a lack of genuine options.
According to insiders, former Netherlands manager Koeman was angered by Laporta’s conduct, and their relationship has never been the same since.
Despite this, following Benfica’s 3-0 Champions League loss in Lisbon last month, Laporta granted Koeman a stay of execution. Barca, on the other hand, has fallen in the league to Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and now Rayo.
“It’s not ideal to be ninth in LaLiga,” Koeman remarked after Radamel Falcao’s goal doomed Barcelona to a loss at Vallecas on Wednesday, with Memphis Depay missing a penalty.
“It demonstrates that the team’s level has slipped in terms of squad balance.” We’ve lost a number of guys who were really efficient in the last third. I believe the best teams have strengthened in recent years, whereas we have not been able to do so. That is significant.
“But not today, since we performed well despite losing guys, but you can’t claim that in Spain when you don’t score.”
“I don’t know,” Koeman answered when asked whether the outcome put his career in jeopardy hours before he was sacked.
After Barcelona’s 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in August 2020, former president Josep Maria Bartomeu nominated Koeman to replace Quique Setien.
He resigned his employment in the Netherlands, paying the compensation to the Dutch Football Association out of his own pocket, to pursue what he described as his “dream job.”
He guided Barca to the Copa del Rey and a third-place finish in LaLiga in his first and only full season in command. They were ousted from the Champions League in the round of 16 by Paris Saint-Germain.
Koeman’s stint on the Camp Nou bench has been marred by troubles on and off the field, despite scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final as a player for Barca, earning him legendary status at the club.
Long-term injuries to Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, and Sergio Aguero, among others, have restricted his squad choices, and the club has had to drastically cut its pay bill to cope with its financial woes throughout his tenure.
After the 8-2 loss to Bayern, Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, and Ivan Rakitic all departed, with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann following suit this summer.
In recent weeks, Koeman has bemoaned the departure of star player Lionel Messi. He said the Argentina international was responsible for masking many of the team’s shortcomings and improving the players around him.
Because the club’s debt has reached over €1.4 billion, Koeman has had his hands bound in terms of replacing them. All of the newcomers this summer, including Memphis and Aguero, were signed as free agents.
Koeman, on the other hand, had turned to youth. Last season, Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza, and Pedri all broke through, while this season, Alejandro Balde, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, and Yusuf Demir have all been given opportunities.
Koeman has coached in the Netherlands, Portugal, England, and Spain to varied degrees of success since retiring in 1997. He won two Dutch crowns with Ajax Amsterdam and performed well at Southampton, but he failed to live up to expectations at Valencia and Everton.
- barcelona coach