Koeman fired as Barcelona manager, Xavi pegged as a potential replacement
Koeman’s position had been seriously weakened after poor results prior to the October international break, with back-to-back defeats against Real Madrid and Rayo this week proving to be the tipping point.
The 58-year-old leaves Barca ninth place in the league and in danger of missing out on the Champions League knockout phase for the first time in 20 years, with the side yet to register an away win in any competition this season.
“FC Barcelona has relieved Ronald Koeman of his duties as first-team coach,” the club said in a statement. Joan Laporta, the club’s president, informed him of the decision following the defeat to Rayo Vallecano.
“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.”
his 17-year senior career, including eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League medals. He then joined Al Sadd in 2015, eventually becoming head coach at the Qatari club after retiring in 2019. So far, it is his only managerial experience.
Along with Xavi, ESPN previously reported that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez was among the candidates.
Laporta first considered firing Koeman in the summer, telling him he needed two weeks to find a new manager. Laporta ultimately decided to stick with Koeman due to a lack of credible alternatives.
According to sources, former Netherlands boss Koeman was irritated by Laporta’s actions, and their relationship has never been the same since.
Despite this, Laporta granted Koeman a stay of execution following a 3-0 Champions League defeat to Benfica in Lisbon last month. However, Barcelona has since lost in the league to Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and now Rayo.
“[Being ninth in LaLiga] is not good,” Koeman said after striker Radamel Falcao’s goal condemned Barca to defeat in Vallecas on Wednesday, with Memphis Depay missing a penalty.
“It shows the team’s level has dipped, in terms of the balance in the squad. We have lost players with a lot of effectiveness in the final third. I think in recent years the teams at the top have strengthened and we have not been able to. That counts.
“But not today, because despite missing players we played well, but you can’t say that when you don’t score, not in Spain.”
Asked if the result placed his job in danger, hours before he was fired, Koeman said “I don’t know.”
Koeman was appointed by previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu 13 months ago to replace Quique Setien following Barcelona’s 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in August 2020.
He quit his job with the Netherlands, paying the Dutch Football Association’s compensation out of his own pocket, to pursue what he called his “dream job.”
He led Barcelona to the Copa del Rey and a third-place finish in LaLiga in his first and only full season in charge. Paris Saint-Germain eliminated them in the Champions League round of 16.
Koeman, who as a player for Barcelona scored the game-winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final, earning him legendary status at the club, has had problems both on and off the field during his time on the Camp Nou bench.
Long-term injuries to Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, and Sergio Aguero, among others, have hampered his team selections, and the club has had to drastically reduce its wage bill during his tenure to deal with financial issues.
After the 8-2 loss to Bayern, Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, and Ivan Rakitic all left, with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann following them out the door this summer.
Koeman also bemoaned the recent departure of star player Lionel Messi. He claimed the Argentina international was responsible for masking many of the team’s flaws and making the players around him even better.
In terms of replacing them, Koeman has been stymied by the club’s debt, which has risen to around €1.4 billion. All of the newcomers this summer, including Memphis and Aguero, were signed as free agents.
Koeman, on the other hand, had turned to youth. Last season, Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza, and Pedri all broke through, and this season, Alejandro Balde, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, and Yusuf Demir have all been given opportunities.
Koeman has coached to varying degrees of success in the Netherlands, Portugal, England, and Spain since retiring in 1997. He won two Dutch titles with Ajax Amsterdam and performed admirably at Southampton, but he left Valencia and Everton after failing to meet expectations.