Football

Prem boss in running, but favourite emerges as Barcelona sack Koeman


Barcelona have finally ended Ronald Koeman’s miserable reign as manager after Wednesday’s defeat to Rayo Vallecano left them ninth in LaLiga.

The 58-year-old Dutchman has overseen one of the most turbulent periods in their history. And while the defeat is their fourth in six games – including the Clasico loss to Real Madrid at the weekend – he’s been under pressure for several months. Indeed, his reign will perhaps be best remembered for the fact that the club’s financial issues forced them to let Lionel Messi depart on a free transfer.

In a statement, Barcelona quickly confirmed his exit after the loss to Vallecano left them six points from the summit.

“FC Barcelona has relieved Ronald Koeman of his duties as first-team coach,” an official club statement read.

“The president of the club, Joan Laporta, informed him of the decision after the defeat against Rayo Vallecano. Ronald Koeman will say goodbye to the squad on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva.

“FC Barcelona wishes to thank him for his service to the club and wishes him all the best in his professional career.”

Koeman enjoyed a huge amount of success as a player at the Nou Camp. Indeed, he won four LaLiga titles and the European Cup during a trophy-laden spell at the beginning of the 1990s.

The lure of returning to his old club proved too strong back in August 2020. AS such, the Dutchman left his post as Holland boss to complete a shock return.

However, he rarely proved popular with fans or players. Indeed, one of those – Miralem Pjanic – often spoke out against Koeman.

An up-and-down first campaign saw Barca win the Copa del Rey last season. However, they could only finish third in LaLiga having also lost heavily to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last-16 stage.

But it was their form this season that was to prove costly. Defeat to Vallecano was their fifth of the season. Damaging losses in the Champions League to Benfica and Bayern Munich also leaves them third in Group E.


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Xavi Hernandez the Barcelona favourite

The early favourite to succeed Koeman in the hotseat is former midfielder Xavi Hernandez. He was strongly linked with the role before Koeman took charge, but explained to AS why he wanted to remain with current side Qatar Stars League club Al Sadd.

They are currently on a 34-game unbeaten run.

Second favourite for the job is Belgium boss Roberto Martinez, who was born in the Catalan region. He has earned a strong reputation in the game following his spell in charge of the Red Devils. He was also an FA Cup winner with Wigan Athletic.

Managerless Andrea Pirlo is next in line after his time in charge at Juventus was ended after just one season. He though may be seen as something of a risky appointment.

A more ambitious move would be for Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman is well regarded by the Barcelona board and is thought to be under consideration.

However, his long deal at the King Power, which ties him to the Foxes until 2025, together with Barcelona’s bleak financial situation, means any move – at this stage – looks unlikely.

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