Barcelona’s sacking of Ronald Koeman was inevitable and the club remains a mess
So Ronald Koeman came out. There is very little satisfaction in writing: “I told you so!” But I did.
Loss to Real Madrid in the Classic was just the latest in a long line of evidence to suggest that not only was this legendary Dutchman not the man for the job, but he hadn’t been the right man for the past few years. month.
After the Classic, this column was devoted to how Koeman not only managed to improve Barcelona’s impoverished performance, he failed to teach or improve various players on his squad, putting some of their developments at risk.
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A headless chicken defeat duly followed days after the loss to Madrid as Rayo Vallecano, true David killing Goliath (for the first time in two decades) humbled Koeman and his team, for the last time. The coup de grace.
And finally, club president Joan Laporta took action. There are several key conclusions.
The first is that this decision has dragged on since May, when it should have been taken, and the inertia “caught in the spotlight” of the Camp Nou board will end up costing Barcelona several million euros so than she has literally never been less able to cope with this setback.
It is not that my opinion either. Last spring, senior players around the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training ground whispered to each other that they just didn’t believe this version of Koeman, 58, hidden by old tactical ideas, was chained to the club because ‘they didn’t want to pay for his sacking, would win them La Liga or the Champions League. And, remember, they were saying that just weeks after winning the Copa del Rey together.
I include Lionel Messi in the group of those who appreciated Koeman’s ideas on how to permeate the life of Barcelona’s 2020-21 season, having been given the reins at a horrific time, but who had lost confidence in his ideas, tactics, (lack of intensity in his training regimen or ability to read a game and influence it in-game. Or had lost faith in all of these.
Laporta knew it. Laporta also had the proof with his own eyes. The way Koeman failed to face a La Liga title run last season marked him as “no elite”.
There were times when tension and temper got the better of it, there were times a culture of blame crept in, there were times his tactical sense was exposed and there was the general feeling that, having unmistakably stabilized the ship for the previous seven months, she was not going to be the right fit for the extremely stormy months to come.
A reminder for those who have “moved” since last season. Koeman’s side led, repeat TOP, in La Liga on April 24.
They then took a point from their last three home games thanks to defeats against Granada and Celta Vigo (having led in every game) where opponents took three points thanks to late goals. Barcelona also drew 0-0 against future champions Atletico Madrid. This one-in-nine possible return was the key factor in Koeman and Co. losing the title by three points. Another victory.
Laporta spoke of his tacit recognition that Koeman was not the right person to continue, in May, when he publicly announced that he would not “confirm” the Dutch legend in office until he got it right. looked around.
It was awkward, it was unconscious, but there was no way to reverse the damage. The president made it clear to the media, fans and especially the players that if Koeman stayed it was only, just repeat, because they couldn’t afford to tempt someone “better”.
Which meant that whatever you think of a club sacking one of its legends, whatever you think of the rotten situation that poor old Koeman inherited and then got worse because of the awkward treatment of Messi and his departure… the waterline from the end of May.
There was, and this is vital, literally no way for a coach who has been maintained, for lack of anything better, in a political, damaged, demanding, spotlight club like this to be successful. Certainly not.
Koeman became a specialist in guerrilla fighting with the media and behind the scenes in order to hold on to what was for him, even under these circumstances, the job he had dreamed of all his last working life. In that sense, it’s a personal tragedy for him that it ends this way.
But back to Laporta and his decision to dodge the big decision. I have used the anecdote before but because it is relevant and it comes from the possible greatest manager of the last half century, Alex Ferguson, I will apply it again.
Ferguson, talented, ruthless, addicted to victory, brilliant in both reading and handling, people were highlighting a special ability he had developed as having been key in the long run.
The former Manchester United manager has never hesitated over a difficult decision. He firmly believed that other managers, other clubs, other presidents, players whose talent he loved but whose personalities he doubted would do what Laporta has just been doing for the past six months – fear the sting of nettle instead of grabbing it.
Ferguson could have saved Laporta six months and an epic start for both La Liga and, more importantly, the Champions League cash cow.
The Scotsman’s mantra was: Others will not only fear and try to avoid unpleasant decisions, but they will fear the consequences of taking action. Ferguson believed it was a corrosive and debilitating defect. Usually, he thought, their situations would deteriorate due to inertia, while his decision, for better or for worse, would be calculated, perhaps painful, perhaps controversial – but the boil would be started and United’s ruthless quest for wins, dominance and trophies to be, if not unhindered, healthier and more vibrant.
Apply this logic to Camp Nou. Laporta wanted to say: “Thank you Ronald” in May, skip it and start over. Now, either because the club sorely lacked the money to pay Koeman and recruit again, or because Laporta didn’t yet have Jordi Cruyff on the squad to advise him, or because some candidates were deeply involved in the European Championship, the fact is that the attitude of the new president: “I think we do not have the right manager … but let’s see how it goes” probably cost them the elimination of the phase Champions League groups for the first time in over 20 years, and cost them tens of millions as a result.
If, as I suspect, Laporta held back his hand because he was angry that Xavi had, long before Laporta became a candidate, declared his support for Victor Font in Barcelona’s last presidential elections, then he lets himself be guided by his personal prejudices and his spite. a terrible decision. The one to hold Koeman down when he knew he shouldn’t.
As rich as the Dutchman has become in his lifetime, however much Barcelona eventually paid him for that sacking, it’s always a brutal moment for anyone with human values or football romance to see a legend. embarrassed, rejected and blamed. It’s just.
But he left a legacy which, while not as gigantic as his European Cup-winning goal in 1992, is still vast. He trusted Pedri, he showed the world that this kid is world class. He promoted Ronald Araujo, Nico Gonzalez and Gavi, who are going to be part of the elite. And he helped a phenomenon, Ansu Fati, get back into action. Koeman also had some of the credit for what turned out to be Messi’s last season at Camp Nou, which did not end without a trophy.
Now that he’s gone, the main question is who will take the squad and pick the squad for this epically important trip to Kiev where Dynamo must be beaten if Barcelona can hope to qualify in their squad. Now that he’s gone, there is no doubt that unless Luis Enrique, who is literally the perfect candidate for this team, is stupid enough to be tempted to leave the post in Spain, the post at Barcelona should be. offered, no, given, to Xavi. He wants it, he has succeeded in his apprenticeship and he can make this team competitive in record time.
But it is the least strategic, the least wise and the least reliable FC Barcelona for many years. Will they get it right away? Will Laporta have Xavi in post for the middle of next week and the trip to Kiev?
Watch this place. My What A Club? More like Un Club In A Mess.