When Barcelona sacked Ronald Koeman after a poor start to the season, it was extremely predictable. With Lionel Messi having retired and Luis Suarez being sent off for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, Barcelona’s stars have gone their separate ways. The club is now in disarray with no clear direction on how they’ll progress from here.
The “ronald koeman transfer news” is a story that has been in the news for a while. Barcelona’s sacking of Ronald Koeman was inevitable, and the club remains a shambles.
So Ronald Koeman is no longer with us. Writing, “I told you so!” brings little gratification. However, I did.
The Clasico defeat to Real Madrid was simply the latest in a long line of evidence that showed that not only was this renowned Dutchman not the right man for the job, but that he hadn’t been for some time.
This column was devoted after the Clasico to how not only was Koeman unable to improve Barcelona’s poor performances, but he was also failing to instruct or enhance certain players in his team, jeopardizing some of their growth.
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Rayo Vallecano, a true David conquering Goliath (for the first time in two decades), humiliated Koeman and his squad for the last time a few days after the setback to Madrid. The last flourish.
Finally, Joan Laporta, the club’s president, took action. There are a few major conclusions to be made.
The first is that this choice has been dragged out since May, when it should have been made, and the Camp Nou board’s “caught in the headlights” slowness will end up costing Barcelona millions of euros at a time when they have never been more unable to deal with that setback.
It’s also not just my viewpoint. Last spring, senior players around the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training ground were muttering to one another that they didn’t believe this version of Koeman, 58, was capable of winning LaLiga or the Champions League because he was bound to the club by old tactical ideas and manacled to the club because they didn’t want to pay for his dismissal. And keep in mind that they said this just a few weeks after winning the Copa del Rey together.
I include Lionel Messi among those who admired Koeman’s ideas for bringing life to Barcelona’s 2020-21 season, despite the fact that he had lost faith in either his ideas, tactics, the (lack of) intensity in his training regime, or his ability to read a match and influence it in play, having been handed the reins at a bad time. Alternatively, he had lost trust in all of these factors.
This was something Laporta was well aware of. Laporta had proof from his own eyes as well. Koeman was labeled “not exceptional” after failing to cope with a winnable run-in to last season’s LaLiga championship competition.
There were times when tension and temper got the best of him, times when a blame culture crept in, times when his tactical nous was exposed, and there was a general sense that, after unquestionably steadying the ship for the previous seven months, he wasn’t going to be the right man for the upcoming storms.
For those who have “moved on” from last season, here’s a reminder. On April 24, Koeman’s squad was the best in LaLiga.
They subsequently picked just one point from their final three home games, losing to Granada and Celta Vigo (although leading in each match) as late goals gave the opponents three points. Barcelona also drew 0-0 with Atletico Madrid, the eventual winners. The fact that Koeman and his team only got one point out of a potential nine was a major factor in their three-point loss. Another victory.
In May, Laporta made it public that he wouldn’t “confirm” the Dutch legend in post until he’d had a good look around, implying that he knew Koeman wasn’t the right man for the job.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta took a choice late Wednesday that he should have made a long time ago: he fired Ronald Koeman, who has been unsuccessful. Getty Images/Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto
It was awkward, and it was unintentional, but there was no undoing the harm. The president made it apparent to the media, supporters, and, most all, the players that Koeman was only staying on because they couldn’t afford to lure someone “better.”
Which meant that, whatever you think of a club firing one of its legends, whatever you think of the awful scenario poor old Koeman inherited, and then had made worse by his cack-handed handling of Messi and his departure… from late May onwards, he was holed under the water-line.
There was no possibility, and this is critical, that a coach who had been kept on because there was no one else could thrive at a politicized, damaged, demanding, and under the spotlight club like this. There’s no way.
Under order to hold to what was for him, even in these conditions, the profession he’d dreamt of throughout his working life, Koeman became an expert in conducting guerilla warfare fights with the media and behind the scenes. In that sense, the fact that it ended this way is a personal tragedy for him.
But let’s return to Laporta and his determination to postpone the major decision. I’ve used the tale before, but it’s worth repeating since it’s relevant and comes from Alex Ferguson, perhaps the finest manager of the previous half-century.
Ferguson, gifted, vicious, obsessed to winning, skilled at both reading and manipulating, people used to point to one particular skill he honed as being crucial in the long term.
The former Manchester United boss made no qualms about making a difficult choice. He was certain that other managers, teams, chairmen, and players whose skill he admired but whose mentality he questioned would do what Laporta had done for the previous six months: dread the sting of the nettle rather than seize it.
Ferguson might have spared Laporta a half-year and a disastrous start to both LaLiga and, more significantly, the Champions League’s cash cow.
Other people will not only dread and strive to avoid hard choices, but they will also fear the consequences of action, as the Scotsman put it. This, Ferguson argued, was a corrosive and crippling weakness. Normally, he believed, their situations would deteriorate due to inertia, whereas his decision would be calculated, perhaps painful, perhaps controversial — but the boil would be slashed, and United’s ruthless pursuit of wins, dominance, and trophies would be, if not unhindered, at least healthier and more dynamic.
That rationale may be applied to the Camp Nou. In May, Laporta wanted to say “Thanks Ronald,” move on, and start again. The fact is that the incoming president’s attitude of “I think we’ve got the wrong man in charge… but let’s see how it goes” has probably cost them money, either because the club is desperately short of money to pay Koeman off and recruit anew, or because Laporta didn’t have Jordi Cruyff on staff to advise him at the time, or because some candidates were deeply involved in the European Championship.
If, as I assume, Laporta withheld his hand because he was enraged that Xavi had stated his support for Victor Font in the previous Barcelona presidential elections long before Laporta became a candidate, then he has allowed personal prejudice and pique drive him to an appalling judgment. That of keeping Koeman alive although knowing he shouldn’t.
Seeing a legend humiliated, fired, and blamed is always a horrible moment for anybody with human values or football romanticism, regardless of how rich the Dutchman has grown over his life or how much Barcelona finally pays him for this dismissal. It is what it is.
But he has left a legacy that is immense, though not quite as massive as his European Cup-winning goal in 1992. He believed in Pedri, and he proved to the rest of the world that he was a world-class youngster. Ronald Araujo, Nico Gonzalez, and Gavi have all been promoted to the top level. And he’s aided in the return of a phenomenon, Ansu Fati, to scoring action. Koeman also deserves credit for ensuring that Messi’s last season at Camp Nou did not go without a title.
Now that he’s gone, it’s a significant concern as to who will lead the squad and choose the team for the trip to Kiev, where Dynamo must be defeated if Barcelona is to advance from their group. Now that he’s gone, there’s little question that the Barcelona job should be offered, no, handed to Xavi, unless Luis Enrique, who is literally the best fit for this team, is foolish enough to be seduced away from the Spain job. He wants it, he’s completed his apprenticeship, and he’ll be able to make this side competitive in no time.
However, this is the least strategic, intelligent, and dependable FC Barcelona in a long time. Will they be able to acquire it right away? Will Laporta have Xavi in his squad for the trip to Kiev next week?
Keep an eye on this. What Is This, A Club? Un Club In A Mess is a better description.
Barcelona’s sacking of Ronald Koeman was inevitable, and the club remains a shambles. The decision to fire the Dutchman came after a poor start to the season that saw Barcelona lose 2-1 at home against Real Madrid. Reference: what happened to ronald koeman.
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