Barcelona sacked coach Ronald Koeman after Wednesday’s 1-0 La Liga loss to Rayo Vallecano, his third loss in their last four league games.
After Koeman left, sources told ESPN the club will open talks with Xavi Hernandez on Friday regarding the vacant post, with the former team captain now the first choice.
However, the same sources add that Barca do not expect to have a replacement before the international break in November. An interim coach is expected to take charge of the next three games against Alaves, Dynamo Kiev and Celta Vigo.
Koeman’s position had been seriously weakened after poor results ahead of the October international break, with back-to-back losses to Real Madrid and Rayo this week proving to be the tipping point.
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The 58-year-old leaves Barca in ninth place in the league and risks missing the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in 20 years as the team have yet to register a win in the league. outside in any competition this season.
The club said in a statement: “FC Barcelona have relieved Ronald Koeman of his duties as coach of the first team. Club president Joan Laporta informed him of the decision after the loss to Rayo Vallecano.
“Koeman will say his farewell to the team on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva. FC Barcelona would like to thank him for his service to the club and wish him the best in his professional career. “
As for Xavi, the 41-year-old former midfielder has won a slew of trophies with Barca in his 17 years as a senior player, including eight La Liga titles and four Champions League medals. He then joined Al Sadd in 2015, becoming the head coach of the Qatari club after hanging up his boots in 2019. It is his only managerial experience to date.
Along with Xavi, sources previously told ESPN that Belgium boss Roberto Martinez was among the candidates.
Laporta initially considered sacking Koeman this summer and even told him he needed two weeks to try and find a new manager. In the end, for lack of credible alternatives, Laporta decided to stick with Koeman.
However, sources said former Netherlands boss Koeman was upset with Laporta’s actions and the relationship between the two has never been the same since.
Despite this, Laporta granted Koeman a stay of execution last month after the 3-0 Champions League loss to Benfica in Lisbon. Since then, however, Barca have lost to Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and now Rayo in the league.
« [Being ninth in LaLiga] is not good, ”Koeman said after striker Radamel Falcao’s goal sentenced Barca to defeat at Vallecas on Wednesday, with Memphis Depay missing a penalty.
“This shows that the level of the team has dropped, in terms of balance in the workforce. We lost some very efficient players in the last third. I think in recent years the teams at the top have gotten stronger and we haven’t been able to. It matters.
“But not today, because despite the missing players, we played well, but you can’t say that when you’re not scoring, not in Spain. “
When asked if the result put his job at risk, hours before his dismissal, Koeman replied “I don’t know”.
Koeman was appointed by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu 13 months ago, replacing Quique Setien after Barca’s 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in August 2020.
He quit his job in the Netherlands, paying the Dutch Football Association allowance out of his own pocket, to do what he said was his “dream job”.
In his first and only full season in charge, he led Barca to the Copa del Rey and a third place in La Liga. Paris Saint-Germain eliminated them in the round of 16 of the Champions League.
Koeman, who scored the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final as a Barca player, which earned him legendary status at the club, saw his time on the bench at Camp Nou plagued by to problems on and off the field.
Long-term injuries to Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Aguero, among others, hampered his squad selections, while the club also had to cut payrolls significantly during his tenure to deal with their problems. financial.
Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic all left after the 8-2 setback to Bayern, with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann following them through the exit door this summer.
Koeman also lamented the exit of star player Messi in recent weeks. He said the Argentina international has covered up many of the squad’s flaws and is responsible for making the players around him even better.
In terms of replacement, Koeman’s hands are tied as the club’s debt has reached around € 1.4 billion. All entrants this summer, such as Memphis and Aguero, have been signed on free transfers.
Instead, Koeman turned to youth. Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza and Pedri all broke through last season, while Alejandro Balde, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez and Yusuf Demir have all had chances so far this quarter.
Since his retirement in 1997, Koeman has coached in the Netherlands, Portugal, England and Spain with varying levels of success. He won two Dutch titles with Ajax Amsterdam and did a good job at Southampton, but left Valencia and Everton after failing to live up to expectations.