Barcelona was at all times Koeman’s dream job. However will this be a nightmare project?

Barcelona was at all times Koeman’s dream job. However will this be a nightmare project?

Ronald Koeman has been right here earlier than. No, not Barcelona, the place, as a marauding sweeper he as soon as majestically drove them to Liga and European Cup triumphs. The Dutchman has trodden on scorched earth earlier than, serving to fan flames that have been meant to burn out an period that was long-established however theoretically “previous its shelf life.” (All of that occurred at Valencia throughout one of the crucial convulsed, indignant, imply and memorable intervals within the trendy historical past of that nice membership.)

I’ve obtained little question, in any respect, that for all of the “Welcome house, Ronald!” messages posted by FC Barcelona on Wednesday to notice the return of their one-time captain and scorer of one among their all-time iconic targets — to win Barcelona’s first European Cup, at Wembley in 1992 — the Camp Nou board remembered with crystal readability the best way Koeman handled the elder statesmen within the squad at Mestalla throughout 2007-08.

Ought to anybody be in any doubt — and certainly solely those that have not adopted Koeman carefully will be — about how firmly he’ll deal with any of the sacred cows on this Barcelona squad, then it is time to study some historical past.

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Again then, at Valencia, Koeman succeeded a special Quique: Sanchez Flores that point. As soon as he had his toes beneath the desk, Koeman introduced {that a} trio of long-serving, linchpin, champion gamers, David Albelda, Santi Canizares and Miguel Angel Angulo, have been all “out.” Out of his team, with out the potential for returning, out of the primary team coaching and out of the membership, so would they “please inform their brokers to start out searching for someplace to go.” His resolution divided the Valencia group, broken the president, damage the gamers very a lot and, finally, confirmed most of all that Koeman will comply with his rules and the proof of his personal eyes to lengths different coaches would discover intimidating.

It was nasty, brutish and brief, to coin a phrase, as a result of though Koeman someway galvanised the remainder of the Valencia squad into profitable the Copa del Rey, knocking out Barça alongside the best way, his league kind had them hovering above the relegation zone and he was sacked in April 2008, not fairly six months after taking over the submit.

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Just a few years in the past, when requested whether or not he regretted his actions Koeman, fairly usually, stated: “If I needed to do one thing related once more in my profession then I would do it, however maybe in a barely completely different method. I’ve matured.”

Albelda, on studying the interview, commented that folks in 2014 have been starting to speak about Koeman succeeding Tata Martino. The ex-Valencia captain had clear concepts on the topic, tweeting: “Hopefully Koeman does take over at Barcelona one among as of late — that’ll make it simpler for everybody else to compete for La Liga with them.”

For Albelda, Angulo and Canizares then, ought to we learn Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal now?

Kind of: sure.

Eighteen months in the past, Koeman, who remains to be an acerbic critic of what he would not like and nonetheless possesses a pointy, clever football thoughts, used a Catalan TV interview to level out that he felt the backbone of Barcelona’s team, besides Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, wanted changing even then. Positionally, which means Pique, Busquets and Suarez. What’s change into clear extra not too long ago is that FC Barcelona presidential elections will probably be held within the spring; the present board will retire as a result of in statutory phrases their time is up (lengthy after their football restrict was reached); and elections will convey new Camp Nou governance.

All indications are that the most well-liked, turn-back-the-clock-to-Cruyff-principles candidate is Victor Font who, all issues being equal, ought to win the presidency. He is totally dedicated to persuading Xavi to take over as coach: Xavi would really like Jordi Cruyff and Carles Puyol (plus Busquets, if he will be persuaded) to be a part of his football construction. Which means that the present coach, who’ll now presumably nonetheless be Koeman by then, is out.

Greater than that, Font made it clear that even when Xavi weren’t accessible for one motive or one other, he is not a fan of Koeman being in cost. Thus this iconic, belligerent however football-qualified Dutchman has a really brief run at what he has thought of his dream job for a really, very very long time.

Koeman has at all times held out hope of teaching Barcelona, however these will not be the circumstances by which he anticipated to get the possibility. Adria Puig/Anadolu Company by way of Getty Pictures

Granted, Koeman has had the chance earlier than and missed it. When Joan Laporta gained the essential presidential elections again in 2003, he was suggested by each Txiki Begiristain, his director of football, and by Cruyff that Koeman was an excellent candidate to start the rebuild. The daring Ronald was at Ajax then and wasn’t ready to stop, particularly with issues trying rosy in Amsterdam on the time and a great distance from good on the Camp Nou. When the Amsterdammers instructed Barcelona they could not have Koeman with out shopping for out the rest of his contract, the value was too excessive for Laporta, who’d simply came upon that the monetary chasm on the membership was vastly greater than anticipated.

So in the event you’ve lots of sympathy to spare, then maybe assume gently of this 57-year-old who would possibly quickly study the reality behind the age-old aphorism “watch out what you would like for.” As a result of Koeman has, at most, one yr by which to imprint his imaginative and prescient on this squad, the way it trains, the way it performs and, most significantly, who performs, there is perhaps a necessity for him to be brusque. He would possibly must abandon his promise, made in 2014, that if he is confronted with the duty of sending sacred cows out to pasture, he’ll confront it with extra tact, wit and maturity.

The brutal truth is that it should be very onerous certainly for Barcelona to do the form of enterprise they want to execute with a view to cull the ancien regime. Even when there are golf equipment wishing to learn from the brilliance and amassed profitable expertise of gamers resembling Busquets, Suarez, Pique, Alba, Rakitic or Arturo Vidal, are they the identical golf equipment that may afford to pay an honest payment, plus heavy wages? And are they, on the identical time, golf equipment able to attracting these Camp Nou legends to desert their footballing nirvana?

These are large, large questions. What is evident, nonetheless, is that Koeman, by definition, goes to need to obtain just a few issues fairly rapidly.



Steve Nicol says Ronald Koeman is a smart substitute for Quique Setien as Barcelona’s supervisor.

For a begin, he’ll need intense, athletic, coach-led coaching periods the place the emphasis is positioned closely on positional play, urgent, passing the ball rapidly and transferring for return passes. He’ll need the center of the team to be handed, primarily, to Frenkie De Jong, and if Koeman tried to re-create his partnership with Donny van de Beek, you’d not be shocked. However how will he fund that?

As the brand new Barcelona coach, Koeman will not be shy of utilizing youthful, rising footballers, so long as he thinks they’ve the football schooling, sharp approach and an entire willingness to comply with his tactical orders. He is most likely been at his most profitable when the gamers in his cost obey him, when they’re both younger and enthusiastic and able to be taught or already stuffed with the information that he could make them higher, getting victories and trophies that different managers cannot.

Whether or not Koeman is a man-manager of subtlety who will probably be affected person with the previous guard in the event that they refuse to go away on this transfer market … nicely, that is a very large and doubtlessly explosive query.

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Not that anybody ought to underestimate him. Throughout his profession, there have been notable essential spells. Trophies of 1 type or one other at Ajax, PSV, Benfica and AZ Alkmaar, and he’d begun to make the Netherlands aggressive once more after lacking the final Euros in 2016 and final World Cup in 2018.

One other instance comes from after I interviewed Virgil van Dijk final summer time. I instructed Van Dijk that I would believed him able to play trophy-winning elite football from the times I noticed him taking part in with Celtic. I argued that he might, and will, have gone straight from Parkhead to Anfield. He instructed me he disagreed. He defined that whereas being coached by Koeman at Southampton, he had felt picked on, had felt that the coaching floor therapy had been overly harsh and, within the second, had felt resentment. With retrospect he knew, with total readability, that Koeman had modified him, improved him, made him more durable, made him shrewder and given Liverpool a greater participant.

Which model of Koeman we’ll get now that he’s, lastly, Barcelona coach just isn’t wholly beneath his management.

Round him is one thing approaching footballing chaos. In entrance of him, earlier than the football even begins, is a doubtlessly damaging and debilitating few weeks of transfer enterprise. And within the speedy future, there’s what seems like an all-or-nothing assembly with Leo Messi to find out what the wee man thinks of the brand new large man.

From that second, issues can spiral downwards and uncontrolled or, doubtlessly, give Koeman one thing upon which to construct. He’d higher be on prime kind, in private, football and vitality phrases, on condition that what lies forward of him appears magnificently daunting. And, already, the clock is ticking.

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