BarcelonaThe more veteran Catalans remember that Ronald Koeman’s arrival at Barça as a player in 1989 was extremely turbulent. A center radically different from what the fans were used to. A footballer who, had it not been for the insistence and vision of Johan Cruyff, would have lasted very little at the Camp Nou. However, luck smiled on him and Wembley’s goal in the 1992 European Cup final made him forever a hero of Barcelona. Unfortunately for him, his step as a coach has followed the same initial steps, but he has not had a happy ending. After a convulsive year and a half, fighting all the elements, and escaping through the hairs of two attempts at destitution, he has finally come out the false door before All Saints. Koeman has not eaten the panellets, even though it had not been a month since the president had publicly ratified it.
19.08.20: emergency signing
Koeman arrives five days after Lisbon’s 2-8
After the fateful 2 to 8 in Lisbon, Barça, still chaired by Josep Maria Bartomeu, was urgently looking for a coach to replace Quique Setién. According to the Camp Nou, journalist Lluís Canut proposed Koeman’s name to the president, who invited him to his home to speak. Hiring was more than urgent. Five days after the defeat, the club announced that the Dutchman, the Wembley hero, would become the new Catalan coach.
August 2020: the castle of cards falls
Luis Suárez, Messi’s bureaufax and Bartomeu’s resignation, first conflicts
Little was expected of Ronald Koeman who would have so much work in such a few days. With a Barça that was already blaming the economic effects of the pandemic, the first conflict was with Luis Suárez, whom he had to dismiss following the club’s guidelines. Then he would see Leo Messi send a bureaufax to leave and, in October, the resignation of Bartomeu and his entire board. While the team had an irregular start in the League and in Europe, it coexisted with other internal conflicts, such as the massive pay cut negotiated by the management board pending elections.
January 2021: Electoral debate on the coach
Koeman was not the ideal coach for any of the candidates
The electoral process, which Koeman experienced with anxiety, was unduly delayed. The coach only took an active part in the meeting with the candidates where he asked them to sign Eric Garcia. The lack of consensus among the presidential candidates, however, slowed it down. The coach knew that it was not the ideal bet for any of the three, although – with the exception of Víctor Font, who already had Xavi tied up – he was confident that he could at least finish the season on the Barça bench.
17.04.21: The only sweet moment
The victory in the Cup had to ratify him in office
They say at the Camp Nou that there was an unwritten pact between Laporta and Koeman according to which, if he won any title, he would keep his place on the bench for an additional year. The title was the Cup, against Athletic, in a final in which Barça played one of the best football games with the Dutchman on the bench. Subsequent weeks were also good. A winning streak that was even about to place the leading team. I had to touch it. But at the key moment he punctured unexpectedly against Granada at the Camp Nou. After touching the sky, that was the start of a season finale to forget.
May 2021: Fifteen days of grace
Laporta wanted to kick Koeman out but found no relief to convince him
After the poor end to the league, and an exchange of reproaches between the coach – who accused the president of “disrespect” – and Laporta, the club had decided to expel Koeman in mid-May. But the problem was finding a relief. According to Koeman’s version, in a tense meeting in the offices, Laporta told him that he needed 15 days to find a replacement and that if he did not find anyone during this period, he would continue as coach. Everyone knows how the story goes. On June 3, Laporta confirmed Koeman at a press conference at the Camp Nou.
July 2021: An exciting preseason
The board, pleased with what they saw in the summer, pondered renewing the coach
The board asked Koeman to practice a style of play closer to what is known as Barça DNA. In the summer, in the first preseason games, there was a leap forward that satisfied Laporta and his team. So much so that there was talk of the possibility of renewing the contract to Koeman to give more prominence to the locker room, as reported by ARA in July. Of course, with two conditions. The first, which would be expected in October. And, second, that it would be an easy deal to break in case in the end things didn’t go well. In September, in a meeting with journalists, he confirmed this intention.
September 2021: “How to talk to a wall”
Koeman saves the charge unexpectedly before playing Wanda
Barça had a horrible September. He only wins one game in the League and loses two keys to the Champions League leaving the team one step away from elimination. The game has gone backwards and Laporta, at the insistence of part of his immediate environment, agrees to make a change. “I’ve already tried everything; talking to him is like talking to a wall,” he said at an event with reporters at the Camp Nou. Everyone was expecting imminent dismissal, but Laporta, in Madrid, before playing for Wanda Metropolitano, backed down and publicly ratified it: “He deserves more room.” The reason is that Koeman convinced Laporta during the flight that, once he recovered the cash he had injured, the team would bounce back in play and results. The president believed him.
27.10.21: the drop that makes the glass spill
Defeat in the classic, losing again to Vallecas and fear in the Champions League, key factors
Even though Barça beat Valencia and Dinamo, the game still offered doubts. The defeat in the classic and a new stumble in Vallecas exhausted the patience of the president. A Laporta who was angry, and very much, with the tactical decisions made by the coach. At the end of the match he talked to Koeman on the plane back to Barcelona. At that time it was decided to take over. Koeman was saying goodbye to the players right there. In the third it was the final one.