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Who is Ronald Koeman, Barcelona’s new manager?

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A club legend and experienced manager joins

FBL-ESP-LIGA-NED-BARCELONA Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

FC Barcelona’s newest coach is one that has been linked with the club for a long time. Ronald Koeman is a club legend as a player, and he hopes that will help him turn around one of the darkest periods of the storied club’s history.

Playing career

Koeman was known for his powerful shot, an unusual trait for a player who played mainly as a central defender, defensive midfielder, or sweeper. He started out in Groningen before moving to Ajax, where he won the Eredivisie and KNVB Cup for the first time. He then moved to the Netherlands’ second biggest club, PSV, where he won the league three times in a row and the KNVB Cup twice. Perhaps most impressively, Koeman was part of the PSV team that won the European Cup in 1988. His PSV eliminated Real Madrid in the semifinals and then won the final against Benfica on penalties, with Koeman scoring in the shootout.

His successes carried onto the national team, when the Netherlands won the 1988 UEFA Euro. Koeman scored a penalty in the semifinals as the Netherlands made a late rally to beat hosts West Germany 2-1, and then went onto win the final 2-0 over the Soviet Union.

His triumphs prompted Barcelona to sign him in 1989. From then, he became part of Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team” which won La Liga four years in a row and the club’s first European Cup. It was this “Dream Team” which defeated Sampdoria in the European Cup final, thanks to a goal from Koeman himself - a powerful long-range drive so characteristic of him. Koeman is one of the best scoring defenders in history. He even was the UEFA Champions League top scorer one season. He also scored a free-kick in a 5-0 win over Real Madrid which was emblematic of the era. He finished out his playing days at Feyenoord, meaning he played in the three biggest clubs in his home country.

Coaching career

After retiring as a player, Koeman was Guus Hiddink’s assistant for the Netherlands at the 1998 World Cup. He then got an assistant coaching position with Barcelona soon after, under Louis van Gaal. His first head coaching job was with Vitesse Arnhem, where he led the relatively modest Dutch club to the UEFA Cup final.

He was given the reins of Ajax, where won the Eredivisie twice. He was heavily linked with FC Barcelona, where Joan Laporta wanted him. However, there was no agreement between the clubs, and the chance went by. He would later quit Ajax and join Benfica. He didn’t find much success there.

He returned to his home country to manage PSV, where he won the Eredivisie once again and claimed another European scalp, eliminating Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.

That earned him a move to Spain in 2007, where he took over at Valencia. He was unable to win over fans or players, in fact, he was considered to be somewhat of a hated figure. Despite bad results in the league and in Europe, Valencia won the Copa del Rey under him, their first since 1999.

Once again, he returned to his home country, where he coached AZ and then Feyenoord. With that last stint, he became the first person to serve as both player and manager of the big three Dutch clubs.

In 2014, he joined Southampton. He was a success at St Mary’s Stadium, leading the Saints to their highest ever Premier League finish, sixth place, and their highest ever Premier League points total. He also left them qualified for the UEFA Europa League.

Riding high, he joined Everton. He helped the team qualify to the Europa League in his first year, which prompted the team to invest to bolster his squad. But his second year in charge proved a failure, with Koeman getting the sack midway through the season.

Koeman was then appointed coach of his home country’s national team, after the Netherlands had reached somewhat of a nadir, failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Under Koeman, the national team bounced back, making the UEFA Nations League final and qualifying for Euro 2020.

That tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Koeman eventually elected to leave the Netherlands for his shot at finally coaching Barcelona.