It was hardly a shock to the system when Ronald Koeman was relieved of his duties at Barcelona following a 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano — a third loss of the season that has left the Catalan club ninth in the table with just 15 points from 10 games.
It is a sacking that has been a long time coming, with the Dutchman tipped for the boot on betting sites like Betdaq since the start of the season. Barca’s key players had previously backed Koeman, with the likes of Memphis Depay and Frankie De Jong supporting their fellow countryman.
However, with three league defeats in their last four games, including losses to Atlético Madrid and their bitter rivals Real Madrid, Koeman no longer had a leg to stand on and the dismissal was inevitably announced, as expected. But what went wrong for the 58-year-old during his 14-month tenure at the Camp Nou? Read on as we take a look.
A club in financial ruin
It must be said that not all of Barcelona’s failures over the last year and a half or so are solely down to Koeman. The club’s current financial state is well documented in the world of football, with Barca an eye-watering £1.35 billion in debt. For Koeman, that has meant he has been restricted in his role as manager. Star players have left or been forced out, with the likes of Luiz Suárez allowed to go to Atlético for free and help Diego Simeone’s side win the league. More players will likely be moved on in the next couple of transfer windows to help reduce that debt further. The financial difficulties were always going to make it tough for Koeman, and his successor will be shackled down with the same issues.
The departure of Lionel Messi
While Koeman’s sacking was inevitable, the same cannot be said about Lionel Messi’s shock exit in the summer. The general consensus throughout the off-season was that the Argentine was going to sign a new deal with the club, and that was the case, only for La Liga to block it on the basis of Financial Fair Play. So, off Messi went to Paris Saint-Germain, albeit against his will, ending an unbelievable stint at the Camp Nou. There was always going to be a knock-on effect following the departure of the club’s best ever player. But Koeman was unable to shake off the proverbial hangover and regroup his players before ultimately paying the price and being sacked.
Out of his depth
Above all, Koeman was out of his depth at the Spanish giants. The task of taking the reins at Barcelona in the midst of one of their most successful periods as a club, as well as dealing with Messi’s exit, is a tough task for any manager worth their salt. However, in reality, it was too big a task for Koeman, who had never before managed a side of such prestige and calibre. He may have gotten away with managing a prime Barcelona, who he could have told to just go out and play tika-taka football and win matches with ease, but this is a completely different side.
On the pitch, Barca still have some top-class players and despite everything going on off the field, they shouldn’t be down in ninth place. The decision to play Gerard Pique up front in the closing stages of a 1-1 draw with Granada drew criticism towards his tactical nous (or lack of it), while his poor record against the big sides — which included four successive El Clasico defeats and a 3-0 defeat at home to Bayern Munich in this year’s Champions League — is all the proof you need that this was not the right job for Koeman.