Ronald Koeman is no longer the manager of Barcelona. The club relieved the 58-year-old Dutch coach on Wednesday, just hours following another embarrassing defeat, this time away from home at Rayo Vallecano with Radamel Falcao scoring the winner. According to CBS Sports insider Fabrizio Romano, the Blaugrana club held an emergency meeting with president Joan Laporta and the board immediately after the result to determine Koeman's fate.
Romano reports that the Barcelona board has already been in touch with Xavi for weeks about the club legend replacing Koeman, but Barca is still waiting to proceed with talks. The ex-Barca star currently coaches Qatar Stars League club Al Sadd. Another name in consideration is Roberto Martinez, who is currently managing Belgium in European qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The club released the following statement:
FC Barcelona has relieved Ronald Koeman of his duties as first-team coach. The president of the club, Joan Laporta, informed him of the decision after the defeat against Rayo Vallecano. Ronald Koeman will say goodbye to the squad on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva.
FC Barcelona wishes to thank him for his service to the Club and wishes him all the best in his professional career.
Koeman, a club legend best remembered for his playing days in the early 1990s, took over as manager in August 2020 and managed to win the Copa del Rey in his first season despite leading the team to a disappointing third-place finish in La Liga. The pressure carried over in the offseason when the club could not keep Lionel Messi on the squad due to salary cap restrictions thanks in part to a lengthy era of financial mismanagement under previous presidential leadership.
Without Messi, Barcelona are in the midst of a rebuilding period with several young, promising players -- 18-year-olds Pedri and Ansu Fati, for starters -- already signed long-term with the club and hold release clauses just north of $1 billion. Gavi, 17, and Nico González, 19, are among notable up-and-coming Spanish talents. Others worth a shout: 20-year-old American Sergiño Dest, and 22-year-olds Riqui Puig and Ronald Araújo.
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Barcelona are currently in ninth place in La Liga and have lost four of their past five league matches, including El Clasico against Real Madrid over the weekend. A day after that loss, the club condemned the "violent and disdainful acts" as videos on social media emerged showing fans screaming obscenities, violently banging and blocking Koeman's car as he tried to drive out of Camp Nou the night of the El Clasico loss.
Wednesday's loss to Rayo was the final straw for one club legend -- responsible for scoring the match-winning free-kick goal in the 1992 European Cup final over Sampdoria -- whose vacancy may be filled by another club legend. The 41-year-old Xavi, winner of four Champions League titles for Barcelona during what was arguably the most successful era in the history of the club, is viewed as the likely frontrunner to take over midseason and try to lead this Catalan side back to at least a top-four finish. Barca sit six points back of four-way logjam for first place in Spain.
At the halfway mark of the Champions League group stage, Barca sit third with three points (one win, two losses) and trail second-place Benfica by one point. Bayern Munich lead the group with nine points and are almost virtually unreachable. Barca will likely need to beat Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine on Tuesday and beat Benfica at home on Nov. 23 ahead of the final matchday at Bayern in December to avoid group-stage embarrassment. You can watch every UEFA Champions League match on Paramount+.