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).
Ronald Koeman is now out. It's not easy to write, "I told You so!" But I did.
The Clasico defeat to Real Madrid was the latest evidence that this legend Dutchman wasn't the man for the job. It was also the last in a long list of evidence that suggests that he had not been the right man for months.
This column, which was written after the Clasico, was about Koeman's failure to improve Barcelona’s poor performances. He was also failing to teach and improve other players in his squad, putting some their futures in jeopardy.
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After the Madrid defeat, a headless chicken defeat was followed by Koeman and his team for the final time. The coup de grace.
Finally, Joan Laporta, club president, acted. These are just a few of the key points.
First, that the decision has been delayed since May, when it should be taken. This will result in Barcelona spending many millions of euros on Camp Nou's inertia, which is literally proving that they are not able to deal with this setback.
This is not only my opinion. Senior players at the Ciutat Elsportiva Joan Gamper training grounds were saying to each other last spring that they couldn't believe this Koeman, 58-year-old, who was enslaved by old tactical ideas and sacked because they didn’t want to pay the sacking fee, would win them LaLiga, or the Champions League. Remember, this was just weeks after they won the Copa del Rey.
Lionel Messi is included in the group of people who appreciated Koeman’s ideas on how to infuse life into Barcelona's 2020-21 seasons. Having been given the reins at an awful time but who had lost faith either in his ideas, his tactics or his ability read a match and to influence it in play, Or, had lost faith in any of these elements.
This was something Laporta understood. Laporta had also seen the evidence. Koeman's failure to manage a winnable run in to the LaLiga title race last season marked him as "not elite."
There were moments where he was unable to control his temper, moments when blame culture swarmed through and moments when his tactical ability was exposed.
This is a reminder for those who have "moved forward" since last season. Koeman's team was TOP, repeat TOP, in LaLiga on April 24,
The team then won one point in their three remaining home matches, thanks to defeats against Celta Vigo and Granada (having led each match), while the opposition took three points due to late goals. Barcelona lost 0-0 to eventual champions Atletico Madrid. Koeman and Co. lost the title by three point because of the one-point return on a possible nine. Another win.
Laporta talked about Koeman's tacit acknowledgment that he wasn't the man for the job. In May, he made it clear that he would not "confirm" the Dutch legend until he had taken a look around.
On Wednesday night, Barcelona's president Joan Laporta took a decision that he should have made long ago: firing Ronald Koeman. Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Although it was incontinence, it was not clumsy. However, there was no escape from the destruction. The president made it clear to the media, fans, and most importantly the players that Koeman would not be leaving because they couldn’t afford to make anyone else "better."
This meant that, regardless of what you think of a club firing one of its legends or the terrible situation poor old Koeman had inherited and made worse by the careless treatment of Messi and his departure, he was still below the water-line since May.
It was impossible, and this is crucial, that a coach who had been kept in place, for the sake of any better, in such a damaged, demanding, and spotlight-driven club, could succeed. It's impossible.
Koeman was a specialist in fighting guerrilla war with the media and behind-the scenes to keep his job, which he had longed for all his working life. It's in that sense a personal tragedy that Koeman has seen it end.
Let's return to Laporta, and his decision not to make the big decision. Although I have used this anecdote before, it is still relevant and comes from Alex Ferguson, who may be the greatest manager of all time. I will use it again.
Ferguson was a talented, determined, obsessed with winning, brilliant at reading and manipulating. People used to highlight one of his special abilities as being key to the success of his career.
He was a former Manchester United manager and never hesitated to make tough decisions. He believed that other managers, clubs, chairmen, and players whose talents he appreciated but whose personalities he didn't, would do the same thing Laporta did for six months: fear the sting instead of grasping the nettle.
Ferguson could have saved Laporta half an year and a terrible start to LaLiga, and more importantly the Champions League cash cow.
Scotsman believed that other people would not only fear or try to avoid making bad decisions but also fear the consequences of their actions. Ferguson believed this was a debilitating, corrosive flaw. He believed that their lives would worsen due to inertia. However, his decision would be calculated and perhaps painful -- but United's relentless pursuit of wins, dominance, and trophies will be unhindered and make them healthier and more dynamic.
This logic can be applied to Camp Nou. Laporta wanted to thank Ronald for his help in May. He was ready to move on and start over. Either because Koeman is now in dire financial straits and the club has to hire a new coach, or because Laporta did not have Jordi Kruyff to help him, or because Laporta was deeply involved in the European Championship. The fact is that Laporta's attitude of "I think we've got a wrong man in control... but let’s see what happens" probably led to them being eliminated from the Champions League group stage. This could have cost them tens of million.
If Laporta, as I suspect, stayed his hand because he was annoyed with Xavi for declaring his support for Victor Font in last Barcelona presidential election, then he has let his personal prejudices and pique guide him to an awful decision. He kept Koeman, even though he knew he shouldn’t.
No matter how wealthy the Dutchman may have been in his lifetime, it is still a terrible moment for any football romanticism or human values to see a legend shamed, dismissed, and blamed. It's just how it is.
He left behind a legacy that, even though it isn't as huge as his 1992 European Cup win, is nonetheless significant. He believed in Pedri and he demonstrated to the world that this child is world-class. He promoted Nico Gonzalez, Ronald Araujo and Gavi who are all elite. He's also helped Ansu Fati get back to scoring action. Koeman was also credited for Messi's last Camp Nou season, which did not end trophy-less.
It's now a big question who will pick the squad for the crucial trip to Kiev, where Dynamo must be defeated if Barcelona is to qualify from their group. There's no doubt that Luis Enrique is the ideal candidate for this squad and should not be tempted to leave Spain. The Barcelona job should be offered to Xavi. He wants it. He's completed his apprenticeship well and can make this squad competitive in double the time.
This is, however, the most strategic, wise and reliable FC Barcelona team in many, many decades. They will get it now. Will Laporta be able to send Xavi on the next midweek and for the trip to Kiev?
Keep an eye out for this. Mes Que Un Club? More like Un Club In A Mess.