Barcelona fire Ronald Koeman as Xavi eyed as top pick, sources say

After Ronald Koeman's firing, the ESPN FC crew questions if it is the right time for Xavi as the new Barcelona manager. (2:16).
After Wednesday's loss to Rayo Vallecano 1-0 in La Liga, Barcelona has fired coach Ronald Koeman. This was their third loss in four league games.

ESPN has been informed by sources that Koeman's departure was followed by talks with Xavi Hernandez about the vacant position. Hernandez is the former team captain and will now be the first choice.

The same sources say that Barca won't have a replacement until after the November international break. The next three matches against Dynamo Kiev, Celta Vigo and Alaves will be coached by an interim coach.

After poor results before the October international break, Koeman's position was seriously damaged. Back-to-back defeats against Real Madrid (and Rayo) proved to be the tipping point.

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The 58-year old leaves Barca in ninth place in the league. He is in danger of missing the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 20 years. Barca has yet to win an away match in any competition this year.

In a statement, the club stated that Ronald Koeman was relieved by FC Barcelona of his duties as first team coach. Joan Laporta (the president of the club) informed him about the decision following the defeat against Rayo Vallecano.

"Koeman will bid farewell to the squad at the Ciutat Elsportiva on Thursday. FC Barcelona would like to thank him for his contribution to the club, and wish him the best in his professional life."

Xavi, a 41-year-old former midfielder great, won a slew trophies with Barca during his 17-year tenure as a senior player. He also won eight LaLiga titles, four Champions League medals, and many more. After retiring in 2019, he joined Al Sadd as the Qatari club's head coach in 2015. This is his only managerial experience.

Sources previously revealed to ESPN that Roberto Martinez, the boss of Belgium, was also among the candidates.

Laporta initially considered firing Koeman during the summer, and even advised him that he would need two weeks to find a new manager. Laporta decided to keep Koeman because there were no credible alternatives.

Sources claim that Laporta was upset by the actions of Koeman, the former Dutch boss. The relationship between them has not been the same since.

Laporta granted Koeman a stay to execute last month, despite the 3-0 Champions League loss to Benfica in Lisbon. Barca has lost to Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Rayo since then.

After Radamel Falcao's goal, Barca was defeated in Vallecas on Wednesday. Memphis Depay missed a penalty. Koeman stated that "[being ninth in LaLiga]is not good."

"It is a sign that the team's level of performance has dropped, and the balance within the squad. We have lost players who were very effective in the last third. In recent years, I believe the top teams have been stronger and we have not been in a position to match that. This is important.

"But not today because despite missing players, we played well, but that's not possible when you don't score in Spain.

Koeman was asked if the result put his job at risk hours before he was fired.

Josep Maria Bartomeu had appointed Koeman 13 months ago to replace Quique Setien following Barca's 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in August 2020 in the Champions League.

He quit his job at the Netherlands Football Association, paying the Dutch Football Association compensation out of his pocket to get the job he said was his "dream occupation."

He led Barca to victory in the Copa del Rey, and third place in LaLiga in his first and sole full season of management. They were eliminated by Paris Saint-Germain in round 16 of the Champions League.

Koeman, who was a Barca player and scored the winning goal of the 1992 European Cup final, is now a Camp Nou bench member. He has had to deal with many problems off the pitch.

His team selections have been hampered by long-term injuries to Ansu Féti, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho, as well as the club's need to drastically reduce their wage bill to address their financial woes.

Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal, along with Ivan Rakitic, all fled after the 8-2 defeat against Bayern. Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann followed them out the exit doors this summer.

Koeman also lamented Messi's departure in recent weeks. He claimed that the Argentina international had hidden many of the team’s flaws, and was responsible to making the players around his even better.

Koeman is stuck trying to replace them because of the club's debt, which has now reached 1.4 billion. All of the incomings, including Aguero and Memphis, were signed on transfers for free.

Koeman instead turned to youth. Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza were all successful last season. Alejandro Balde and Nico Gonzalez, Yusuf Demir, and Nico Gonzalez, all had good chances this term.

Koeman retired in 1997 and has been a coach in Spain, Portugal, England, and England. After winning two Dutch titles with Ajax Amsterdam, he did a great job at Southampton but left Valencia and Everton because he failed to live up to his expectations.