Xavi Favourite To Take Over Barcelona Coaching Job

In this file photo taken on December 2, 2019 Al Sadd SC Manager Xavier Hernández Creus, also known as Xavi, speaks to the media after receiving the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Men’s Player of the Year 2019 award in place of absentee Akram Afif, during a press conference after the AFC Annual Awards ceremony in Hong Kong. Philip FONG / AFP

 

Ronald Koeman has been sacked as Barcelona coach after a torrid 14 months, with legendary midfielder Xavi Hernandez the strong favourite to replace him.

The 58-year-old Dutchman was dismissed after a 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday left the Spanish giants sitting ninth in La Liga.

Barca have won only two of their last seven league games under Koeman, a run that included losing to Real Madrid in Sunday’s Clasico at Camp Nou.

A poor start to the season has raised the possibility of the team failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League, which would have enormous consequences for the club’s already dire financial situation.

Xavi, who is currently in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd, is considered Koeman’s most likely successor and would be a hugely popular choice with the Barca fans given his glittering playing career there.

There is also the belief that the 41-year-old would instill an attractive style similar to the one played by Barcelona under Pep Guardiola.

River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag have also been linked with the post but might be reluctant to leave their jobs mid-season.

READ ALSO: Barcelona Sack Ronald Koeman As Coach

Barcelona B coach Sergi Barjuan could take charge of the first team on an interim basis, with games against Alaves, Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, and Celta Vigo to come before the next international break.

A club statement released after midnight Wednesday in Spain confirmed the axing of Koeman, who also previously managed Everton and the Netherlands and had been under fierce pressure.

“The president of the club, Joan Laporta, informed him of the decision after the defeat against Rayo Vallecano,” the statement said.

“Ronald Koeman will say goodbye to the squad on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva (training ground).”

Heavy Debt

In this file photo taken on October 22, 2021, Sadd’s coach Xavi speaks to his players during the Amir Cup final football match between Al-Sadd and Al-Rayyan at the Al-Thumama Stadium in the capital Doha. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

 

Koeman spent six years at Barcelona as a player and is considered a club legend after scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria.

He was appointed coach by Barca’s previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu in August 2020 and enjoyed some success in his first season, winning the Copa del Rey and bringing a disillusioned Lionel Messi back onside.

But a disappointing finish in La Liga and a convincing defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 cast doubt over Koeman’s ability to navigate the biggest games, a criticism that was aimed at him again last weekend following the loss to Real Madrid.

Laporta was re-elected as president in March and while he allowed Koeman to continue as coach, there was never much trust between the pair.

Laporta told Koeman in the summer he wanted two weeks to look for a replacement while Koeman reacted badly last month to Laporta suggesting coaches do not have all the power.

“He spoke too much,” Koeman said.

No replacement was found or could be persuaded to take over, perhaps in part because of Barcelona’s perilous financial problems.

The club is 1.35 billion euros in debt and had to watch Messi join PSG in August after failing to renew the Argentine’s contract.

Other key players like Antoine Griezmann also departed without being adequately replaced as Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay both arrived on free transfers and Luuk de Jong came from Sevilla on loan.

“In recent years other clubs have strengthened every season and we haven’t,” said Koeman after his last game in charge against Rayo.

– Honest approach -Youngsters like Pedri, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, Sergino Dest and Ronald Araujo have all benefited from Koeman’s faith, but more established players have suffered a drop in form.

Koeman’s honest approach was largely accepted and even appreciated last season, but his downbeat assessment of his squad this term was seen by many as counter-productive and not befitting of a Barcelona coach.

There was criticism of Koeman’s style of play, which became increasingly direct, while the board were reportedly irritated by his straying from the club’s traditions of playing 4-3-3.

But results were the key factor, as consecutive 3-0 defeats by Bayern Munich and Benfica in the Champions League were followed by losses against Atletico and Real Madrid in the league.

Laporta said before the international break that Koeman “deserved the benefit of the doubt”, moving to end speculation that he would lose his job after the defeat by Atletico earlier this month.

But faced with an early exit in the Champions League and the possibility of failing to make the top four in La Liga, Laporta decided to act.

AFP

Barcelona Condemn Fans Abusing Koeman After Clasico Defeat

Both teams’ players greet each other at the end of the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 24, 2021. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

 

Barcelona condemned abuse from fans aimed at coach Ronald Koeman on Sunday as he left Camp Nou following the team’s 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid.

Koeman is a Barca legend after scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final but he has been under heavy pressure as coach in recent weeks.

“FC Barcelona publicly condemns the violent and disdainful acts that our manager experienced when leaving the Camp Nou,” a club statement read.

READ ALSO: Real Madrid Beat Struggling Rivals Barcelona In La Liga

“The Club will take security and disciplinary measures so that such unfortunate events do not happen again.”

Fans were seen gathering around Koeman’s car and shouting abuse at the Dutchman as he attempted to drive out of the stadium.

Barcelona had just lost to Real Madrid for the fourth time in a row, their longest run of defeats in the fixture since 1965.

The result leaves them eighth in La Liga and puts renewed pressure on Koeman, whose future has been uncertain after a poor start to the season.

Under-Pressure Koeman Gets Two Match Ban After Red Card

In this file photo taken on October 13, 2019 Netherlands' coach Ronald Koeman looks on prior to the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Belarus and the Netherlands in Minsk. Sergei GAPON / AFP
In this file photo taken on October 13, 2019 ex-Netherlands’ coach Ronald Koeman looks on prior to the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Belarus and the Netherlands in Minsk. Sergei GAPON / AFP

 

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman on Friday escaped with the minimum two-match ban as punishment for his red card the previous evening when Barcelona drew 0-0 at Cadiz.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) disciplinary opted to hand the Dutchman the shortest permitted suspension after his sending off in the final minute for arguing with officials as 10-man Barcelona limped to a goalless draw.

Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande wrote in his report that Koeman was sent off for “protesting to the fourth official in an ostentatious manner, with his arms raised, shouting and leaving the technical area, complaining: ‘hey, the referee has to whistle, the referee has to whistle, dammit, he has to whistle’ even though he had already been warned by the fourth official to stop protesting at the referee’s decisions”.

Koeman wanted play stopped because there were two balls on the pitch.

“In this country you get sent off for nothing,” Koeman told the press conference after the match, explaining that “it was for telling the fourth official that there was a second ball on the pitch, that he had to stop the game.”

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Koeman is under pressure because Barcelona are already seven points behind Liga leaders Real Madrid, although they have a game in hand, and have scored ust five goals in five league matches.

He will not be able to sit on the bench on Sunday as Barcelona host Levante and on October 2 when Barcelona visit champions Atletico Madrid.

The disciplinary committee also banned midfielder Frenkie de Jong for one match.

The Dutchman was sent off in 65th minute for his second yellow card in four minutes.

AFP

Lyon Beat Everton To Pile Pressure On Koeman

Everton’s Dutch manager Ronald Koeman at the UEFA Europa League Group E match between Everton and Lyon at Goodison Park, in Liverpool on October 19, 2017. Oli SCARFF / AFP

Lyon piled the pressure on Everton manager Ronald Koeman with a 2-1 Europa League win at Goodison Park on Thursday, while Olivier Giroud’s acrobatic late strike snatched Arsenal a 1-0 victory over 10-man Red Star Belgrade.

Nabil Fekir’s penalty put French side Lyon ahead early on as Everton struggled for inspiration with Wayne Rooney rested and watching on from the stands.

The crowd only really got behind their team when a mass brawl broke out between the players in the second half after skipper Ashley Williams pushed over Anthony Lopes as the Lyon goalkeeper jumped to catch the ball.

The Wales international was lucky not to see red as he also appeared to land blows on several players, while some home fans tried to get in on the action by leaning over the barriers.

The incident is unlikely to go unnoticed by UEFA, but Williams brushed it off by powering home a header from a Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick just minutes later.

But Lyon were the better side and retook the lead through Bertrand Traore’s clever finish.

Lyon’s Burkinabe striker Bertrand Traore (C) celebrates with teammates on the pitch after the game. Oli SCARFF / AFP

Williams played down his moment of madness, telling BT Sport: “It’s football. It is what it is. We want to win and so do they. These things happen.”

Everton now turn their attentions to a home Premier League match with Arsenal on Sunday, where anything other than three points would put Koeman’s position under even more scrutiny.

“It is a big one. They are all big, especially against a top team at home,” Williams added. “We need a win and a performance.”

The Merseyside outfit, who have only won two Premier League matches in eight games this season despite significant close-season transfer investment, remain bottom of Group E on one point after a winless three games.

Italians Atalanta top the standings ahead of Lyon after seeing off Apollon Limassol 3-1.

Captain Fekir put Lyon ahead in just the sixth minute from the spot after a rash tackle from Everton full-back Mason Holgate on Fernando Marcal.

The hosts finally created a chance as Kevin Mirallas was denied by Lopes after a clever pass from Tom Davies, before Lyon almost doubled their lead when a long-range Memphis Depay free-kick struck the crossbar with the aid of a deflection.

After Williams’ crazy spell ultimately dragged Everton back into the game, they were hit by a sucker-punch as Burkina Faso forward Traore gave Bruno Genesio’s Lyon a deserved victory with a backheeled finish from Maxwel Cornet’s cutback.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford spared Everton further embarrassment with a string of late saves.

Giroud Acrobatics Save Arsenal

Earlier on Thursday, Arsenal rode their luck at times in an uninspiring performance, before Giroud struck in the 85th minute after Red Star had seen Milan Rodic sent off.

Arsenal took advantage in style with a wonderful goal, as Jack Wilshere’s clever flick was turned across goal by Walcott for Giroud to send an overhead kick spinning into the top corner.

The Premier League side stay top of Group H, five points clear of Red Star, after three straight wins.

“I said yesterday in our press conference I don’t think anyone can question our character, we showed that tonight,” midfielder Jack Wilshere told arsenal.com.

Italian Serie A high-flyers Lazio came from behind to win 3-1 at Nice.

Mario Balotelli opened the scoring for Nice in the fourth minute, after announcing the birth of his son Lion earlier this week, only for Felipe Caicedo to equalise seconds later.

The Italian capital-city side took top spot in Group K and extended their unbeaten away run in the Europa League to 11 matches as midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored a second-half brace.

But seven-time European champions AC Milan continued to struggle as they were held to a 0-0 home draw by AEK Athens in Group D.

Real Sociedad bounced back from their 3-1 defeat by Zenit St Petersburg last time out with a 6-0 thrashing of Vardar in Macedonia as Brazilian Willian Jose scored four goals in 25 minutes.

AFP