Lionel Messi, Ronald Koeman, Joan Laporta

RONALD KOEMAN SACKED BY BARCELONA AFTER SOME DIRE RESULTS BUT HOW MUCH OF THE CLUB'S MESS WAS ACTUALLY HIS FAULT?

The inevitable has finally happened with FC . Ronald Koeman has been sacked as manager after a less-than underwhelming start to the season which saw his critics asking for his head.

 

 

A second consecutive 3-0 loss in the had already left them bottom of the group with no goals scored yet. An unwanted piece of history but one that was not singularly responsible for the firing of the Dutchman. The issues were slowly piling up, from as early as the latter portions of last season and have continued this summer as well.

 

However, not all of those could be attributed to the manager but Koeman did himself no favours with his comments or playing style for the team too.

 

FALLING TOWARDS THE END

It was not supposed to be like this in August of last year. Koeman was unveiled as the new boss after a disastrous ending to Quique Seiten’s spell which saw Barcelona give away the title to Real Madrid in the final weeks of 2019-20. The former defender had always spoken highly of his desire to coach the Blaugrana and had just guided the Netherlands to qualification for Euro 2020.

 

Barcelona had another big summer, financially, with an outlay of €124m but it was the departure of Luis Suarez that rankled the most. It was said that the veteran striker was discarded by manager and the board without any prior intimidation. That reignited the fight between and then-president , with the former having already seen his request to leave blocked.

 

Messi launched a scathing attack against Bartomeu through his social media post commemorating Suarez’s time with Barcelona. Needless to say, this immediately set the tone for the start of the season but this was hardly Bartomeu’s worst transgression as it would later emerge.

The season on-field started well, with two wins from two and seven goals scored before quickly hitting some bumps. Koeman and co. took two points from their next four games, a run which included a 3-1 loss to Real Madrid at home. The loss was followed by the resignation of Bartomeu along with his entire board as became the new president in January.

 

The results picked up from December, enabling them to go on a 19-match undefeated streak that kept them close to league leaders Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid beat them once again in mid-April before the first of the killer blows landed at the end of the month. With a chance to go top after rivals dropped points, Barcelona met Granada at home which quickly turned into a disaster.

 

Koeman was sent off in the 67th minute as his team surrendered a one-goal lead to lose 2-1. That was the end of their title charge with the final five matches producing just eight points as the Blaugrana finished 3rd, seven points behind champions Atletico.

They were also knocked out of the Champions League by PSG 5-2 on aggregate in the round-of-16 though the only silver lining was their Copa del Rey triumph that was headlined by Messi.

 

It was a limp end to a season that had promised much, and although the manager is ultimately responsible for the results, Koeman still had the trust of the majority. His defence was aged and looked out of depth while had not recaptured his old form. Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho were injured for most of the season but the general hope was that 2021-22 would be their year.

 

SENSATIONAL SUMMER ENDS IN DISAPPOINTMENT

The transfer window was underlined by the fact that the Blaugrana were extremely broke. Laporta had long criticized Bartomeu for spending wildly on players’ fees and contracts, with losses of €481m in 2020-21. Several of the highest wage earners were in poor form or remained injured for a long time, including Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, and Clement Lenglet.

 

Nevertheless, they still managed to pull some strong deals on free with the likes of Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero and the returning Eric Garcia. However, all eyes were on one person and what was next for his future. Messi became a free agent as contract negotiations dragged on for months.

 

In the end, it was determined by the club and La Liga that the Argentine legend could not remain. The money was simply not there and his tearful exit was followed by Griezmann being loaned out to Atletico as well just two years after his mammoth signing.

 

The burden to reduce wages was immense as senior players were asked to take a paycut while some youngsters were moved on too. Laporta had given Koeman a vote of confidence at the start of match-day one but a deadline day move caused immense amazement.

 

Luuk de Jong was loaned in from Sevilla to sort out the striker issue with both Sergio Aguero and Martin Braithwaite injured. Suffice to say it was a move that neither party thought possible but this backdrop would have to serve as the new season began.

 

POOR FORM ESCALATED THE CRISIS

A 4-2 win over Real Sociedad with Depay having a scintillating game proved to be a false dawn. They have been largely outclassed in every match since then, including in draws with Athletic Bilbao and Granada. Especially against the latter, Koeman looked entirely out of depth with his tactics and playing style.

 

Barcelona played the final 15 minutes of the game with a front two of De Jong and… Gerard Pique. Every wide player was just crossing the ball every time they had it leading some to compare this team to…Stoke City. A last gasp draw was secured but that hardly calmed the storm.

 

The hopeless nature of their defeat against Bayern Munich was still fresh and even a 3-0 win over Levante did not help. By this time, news reports swirled that the club’s board were already actively looking at other candidates like Xavi and Roberto Martinez. Under that sense of doom came the 3-0 loss to Benfica, with the Portuguese club cutting open the Spaniards with ease every time.

 

Luuk de Jong is looking entirely out of his depth, fluffing chances that fall at his feet while Depay’s left wing deployment is not the most effective. Only the addition of youngsters fuelled some hope, as Gavi and Nico Gonzalez look like future stars. Pique and Sergio Busquets look like men who have run their course while Umititi and Lenglet hardly look like men with any future at the club.

 

DID KOEMAN DESERVE TO BE SACKED?

Yes and no. There is no clear answer as to who is responsible for Barcelona’s current mess as it was a cascading chain of events. Bartomeu’s overspending, poor transfer strategy over many years, roundabout managerial selections, spats between Laporta and Koeman in setting the team up- all of these led to this drama-filled summer.

 

It remains to be seen who the board appoints as the next head coach, but the job will not get any easier. Qualification from their Champions League group will be the first task along with charging up the table to catch the teams above. Laporta is under immense pressure to right the ship while their slashed operating budget is one of the smallest in La Liga. Barcelona are in a state of crisis, and there seems to be no easy way out.

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