Barcelona need to undo Bartomeu's final mistake - hiring Ronald Koeman
After years of fan protests and pressure from club legends, Barcelona were finally able to get rid of president Josep Maria Bartomeu and other board members, who took Barcelona from a footballing machine to a squad full of square pegs in round holes and a debt that could sink the club.
The damage done by the former president might take a few years to undo, but one that can be immediately addressed is the position of head coach, currently occupied by club icon Ronald Koeman.
Following a disastrous 2019-20 season where Barcelona finished the campaign without a trophy for the first time since 2008, Bartomeu and the club sacked Quique Setien who had only taken over the job from Ernesto Valverde in January and hired Koeman, who was the Dutch national team coach since 2018.
What was an uninspired appointment has quickly proven to be terrible, as Barcelona sit 13th in the La Liga table with just 11 points in eight games, already 12 points behind league-leaders Real Sociedad and six behind rivals Real Madrid.
Hiring Koeman made little sense, to begin with. The Dutchman had managed the Holland national team to 11 wins in 20 games and led them to the final of the much-maligned Nations League, but given his record as head coach of Everton, it beggars belief that Barcelona deemed him good enough to take over one of the biggest jobs, if not the biggest job in club football.
After a decent spell at Southampton, where he guided them to a seventh and sixth-place finish in two seasons, Koeman signed for Everton in the summer of 2016, as the club looked to crack into the top six of the Premier League and perhaps even further.
Koeman's first season was rather underwhelming. Having spent close to £75 million in transfers, Everton finished seventh in the Premier League, eight points behind Manchester United who finished sixth and 15 points behind the Champions League spot. They didn’t progress beyond the third round in either the League Cup or the FA Cup, as an average campaign finished trophyless and without a spot in Europe.
In the summer of 2017, Everton spent £133 million to help Koeman push the side closer to a European spot, however, after losing five and drawing two of the first nine games of the Premier League season, the Merseyside club cut their losses and sacked the Dutchman.
Outside of his stint at Southampton, Koeman has been a rather average head coach. Barring his success in Holland with PSV, Koeman has won just two trophies in his managerial career – the 2005 Portuguese Super Cup with Benfica and the 2007-08 Copa Del Rey with Valencia.
Despite boasting of just 53 per cent win-rate in matches as a head coach and a terrible stint in his previous job at a club, Bartomeu and the club were convinced that Koeman is the right person to lead the club in Messi's final years, or rather his final year.
A short-sighted move that reeked of panic or no planning, Koeman, as widely expected, has failed to turn the tide at Barcelona. Given their current form, it is highly unlikely that Barcelona will challenge for the La Liga crown this season and from the current state of affairs, it seems as if they just might limp to a top-four finish or even miss next season's UCL altogether, which will be a devastating blow to the club's already troubled finances.
All in all, Koeman, evidently, isn’t cut to lead Barcelona and be it Victor Font or Joan Laporta who takes over as the club’s president post the election, the first order of business will likely be to find a replacement for the Dutchman.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Gabriel Bouys