There are things that are standard in air travel. For example: The sermon requesting the attention of the passengers so that they – among other things – become familiar with the number and location of the exits that are marked with the word “Exit”. Usually it is flight attendants who wearily wave in the corridor (“two in the front, two in the middle, two in back …”).
Late on Wednesday evening, on the return flight of the travel group “FC Barcelona” from the away game at the Madrid working-class club Rayo Vallecano (0: 1), there were no stewards or stewardesses who showed a passenger the door. But Barcelona President Joan Laporta, 59. As soon as the seatbelt signs had gone out, he informed Ronald Koeman that he had been deposed as a coach.
President Laporta throws Koeman out
It is unlikely that Koeman asked to let oxygen masks rain from the cabin ceiling, he himself had publicly joked about his end weeks ago. His resignation has been considered certain for so long that the Spanish media were afraid to try the trite title of the Colombian Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriel García Márquez: “Chronicle of a death that has been announced”.
The bankruptcy in Vallecas, which came about through a goal by García-Márquez compatriot Radamel Falcao (30th), only set the formalities of the termination in motion. It had been postponed for a long time because Barça is in debt with 1.3 billion euros – and Koeman’s severance payment is loud The country is twelve million euros. It is easier to get over the fact that the termination turned out to be unprepossessing. Before the machine started, Koeman’s release was to the newspaper Sport was punctured, shortly after landing it was officially confirmed at 12:14 a.m. on Thursday. After all, they wished him good luck in his life.
Koeman, 58, was signed in August 2020 after Barças’ 2: 8 against FC Bayern in the Champions League final in Lisbon. Born in Zaandam, he ended his contract as Dutch national coach and (still waiting for his severance payment) from Quique Setién as Barça coach. The hopes that the then – and shortly after resigned – President Josep Maria Bartomeu placed in Koeman were never fulfilled.
He won the Spanish Cup in April. His team could hardly convince in terms of football; he himself complained of an unbalanced squad and bad luck with injuries. He had to drag along expensive disappointments like Philippe Coutinho – and vouched for hopelessly overwhelmed strikers like the former Gladbacher Luuk de Jong.
Under Koeman, Barça only won 58 percent of the games; the Champions League qualification, which is urgently needed for economic reasons alone, is in danger. In the last ten games, it has suffered six defeats, including the humiliating 3-0 in the premier class group game against Bayern and a 2-1 defeat against arch-rivals Real Madrid in the league. And it was no consolation on Wednesday that Madrid only played a draw against Osasuna. Barça are six points behind the Spanish record champions in ninth place in the league.
And now? An interim coach led the exercises on Thursday: ex-professional Sergi Barjuan, the coach of the second team. He should hold out “until a new coach is signed,” said the club. The favorite: Xavi Hernández, 41. He occupies an even more prominent place in the Barças Pantheon than Koeman, who enjoyed legendary status as the final scorer in Barcelona’s first premier class triumph in 1992 (1-0 against Sampdoria Genoa).
Xavi has worked as a coach at Al Sadd in Qatar since the end of his brilliant active career, which included the world title (2010) and four Champions League titles. He was now ready to lead “every team in the world”, he said recently, on Thursday 600 days had passed without a defeat.
There is a termination clause in Xavi’s contract; he can go for a manageable transfer fee if Barça should call. On Thursday, Laporta’s close associates traveled to Qatar to release Xavi. According to reports, Xavi himself would like to say goodbye to Al Sadd, with whom he won a total of eleven titles, four as a player and seven as a coach.
The fact that Xavi’s declared dream of returning to Barcelona has not long since come true is due to his relationship with President Laporta. Xavi had joined the candidacy of Laporta rival Víctor Font in the election campaign; Laporta eyed Xavi skeptically. Now Xavi is probably the only chance for Laporta, who has been in office since March, to lift the spirits of the Barça members – and to protect himself.
Critics accuse Laporta of failing to keep campaign promises
He has long been accused of failing to keep a number of campaign promises – starting with the fact that club icon Messi did not stay, but went to Paris. His dealings with Koeman were considered underground – unforgotten how he told him in the summer that he would look for another coach in order to keep the Dutchman after all. In between, Koeman had to go to hospital with a fit of weakness. But there is also current criticism.
Over the weekend, the club made a grand gesture to fight for human rights, but 48 hours later the club announced a friendly against Boca Juniors for December. It is supposed to take place in Saudi Arabia of all places – known to be a model country for basic rights for men and especially women. There is to be played for a Copa Maradona and a few dirty, but urgently needed millions.