Ronald Koeman and Barcelona: A marriage of inconvenience teeters towards long and ugly split


Few things are as fascinating in football as watching a public rift between a club and a manager. This can be a huge distraction for both the coaches across the board, but in the sickest sense it gets the public hooked. It’s like watching a train crash in slow motion; No matter how much you want, you cannot take your eyes off the sight. The as-yet-official-but-inevitable split between FC Barcelona and Ronald Koeman is equally fascinating.

The spat between manager and Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reached a fever pitch. Barcelona’s 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League was the catalyst for a murmur of unease.

Yet it was a 1–1 draw with Granada that really brought out the pitchforks and daggers. Koeman, in a desperate bid to get a goal, threw at Ronald Araujo and Gerard Pique. as a striker. Not really. He then instructed his wingers and full-backs to aim cross after cross at the two.

FC Barcelona, ​​the club that epitomized Johan Cruyff’s ‘total football’, is currently reduced to playing route-one football against opponents in the relegation zone. oh the horror

But wait, there’s more. Koeman, in what seems like a bid to alienate everyone, on Wednesday (22 September) held one of the most bizarre press conferences in recent memory. He arrived, read a prepared statement in advance and did not answer any questions from the media at all.

Perhaps it was a way of giving zero fodder to the bloodthirsty Catalan media. It is well known that many journalists in the region are close to Laporta and will happily do his bidding. But it still felt weird.

Under normal circumstances, Koeman would be out of a job by this time. But, as we’ll soon see, normal and Barcelona can’t go hand in hand.

financial numbers spell disaster

The main reason Ronald Koeman is no longer updating his CV when looking for a new job is for money. Or, the complete lack of it in Barcelona’s coffers.

Look, it’s little secret at this point that Barcelona is broken up as a joke. And Koeman is in the final year of his two-year deal. Therefore, to sack him the club would need to pay him a tidy sum in compensation – money the club does not have.

But wait, there’s more! As it turns out, former president Josep Bartomeu, whose lavish spending spree pushed Barca towards this current crisis, left the final goodbye to deal with the new regime.

When Quique Setien lost his job at Barcelona, ​​Bartomeu turned to Koeman. There was only one issue – Koeman was then manager of the Netherlands and the club would have to pay a compensation fee of six million euros to the Dutch federation in order to buy out his contract.

Barcelona didn’t have the money, so Koeman decided to pay it himself – on one condition. If his contract is not renewed at the end of the two-year deal, Barcelona will reimburse him for that money.

To make matters worse, a report by Catalan TV channel TV3 states that the club will have to pay him €12 million in compensation in order to sack Koeman.

So, to sum things up: Barcelona have a coach they don’t want in Koeman. If they sack him, they will have to pay 12 million euros. If they choose to wait until the end of his deal, they will have to pay him €6 million – but potentially miss out on a Champions League spot on silverware or worse.

With such motivated management at the board level, is it any wonder they are in financial trouble?

Is there a way out for Ronald Koeman at Barcelona?

In a word, no. But there are many reasons why Koeman was never a long-term solution for the club and was merely a stopgap.

The first, of course, is his managerial career. His most memorable stints in recent memory were at Southampton and Everton, although the latter spell ended in the 2017–18 season after a massive summer outlay that saw them hover above the relegation zone.

Koeman’s biggest successes in 2017 were guiding Southampton to seventh and Everton to a Europa League spot.

Spells at Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar, Benfica and even Valencia ended in huge disappointment. But arguably his main disadvantage has been his radical departure away from Barca’s Cruyff-ian ideals.

Now, to be fair, every manager since Pep Guardiola has moved on from the dominant tiki-taka style of old. Hell, Guardiola has updated his playing system several times since then. The key, however, is that Cruyff’s ideals of total football are still visible in the way Pep sets up his teams.

Koeman by his own admission is not trying to play silky smooth football but trying to get results. They would argue that they simply do not have the players to consistently enforce that style of play – and they would be right to an extent.

However, with the type of players at their disposal, playing route-one football with two centre-backs up front was bound to irk even the non-purists in Barcelona’s fan base. And, perhaps more important, President Joe Cruyff who swore by Cruyff’s advice and footballing ideals.

As such, one way or another, Koeman will be a former Barcelona manager at some point. When will that day come and what will be its result? It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

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