Ronald Koeman is a dead man walking. So why is he managing the next match? It’s sad that this is the way we are speaking of a club legend, who came to FC Barcelona and gave up the chance to manage his home country, the Netherlands, at the Euros in the process. But it’s quite evident that the belief in him is gone from the team’s upper management. Prolonging the inevitable won’t help.
Joan Laporta took a risk staying with Koeman over the summer. Koeman was not Laporta’s hire; it was his predecessor who chose him. The club didn’t have much money and paying a generous compensation package for him to leave, with no clear replacement in mind, seemed to not be worth it.
The squad was severely weakened over the summer - particularly with the departures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann - but Laporta did bring two of Koeman’s disciples in Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong, and tried to bring another in the form of Georginio Wijnaldum.
There was public dithering over the matter, but in the end Laporta stuck with Koeman and even got him the few pieces they could afford that he wanted.
Koeman had a good maiden season, winning silverware and improving the team over the term. However, the team faltered in the last stages of the league. They have now reverted. It’s to be expected that Barcelona aren’t favorites for La Liga and will be rocked by Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. But this team shouldn’t be quite this bad, and shouldn’t be put to the sword by Benfica, either.
Laporta wants to hire a good replacement, and there is no clear frontrunner to take over. He also reportedly does not want to make a decision too quickly and make a mistake. But not making a choice, is in itself a choice - a choice to burn time with a manager that the club does not really believe in.
It will look silly to sack Koeman just a handful of matches into the season, even accounting for the fact that Barcelona were hamstrung by the hefty compensation they will have to pay to let him go.
But it’ll start looking sillier for time to continue to go by without a change at the helm. The 3-0 loss to Bayern followed by two draws in the league was a good time to sack him. That was more than a week ago.
The normal thing to do in this circumstance is to give the job to an interim. Alfred Schreuder already coached Barcelona in the last La Liga game, a 3-0 win over Levante, as Koeman was banned due to suspension.
Schreuder will be in charge again against Atlético Madrid as Koeman serves the second game in his suspension. Giving him credit if Barcelona manage to perform once again will be somewhat complicated because ultimately, Koeman is still in charge of the match preparation and most of the choices. It would probably vindicate Schreuder more if he won as an interim coach than as a substitute manager.
But ultimately, it’s not about him. It’s about making a change quickly. Prolonging the process is not helping. With Koeman out, Schreuder could manage as an interim. Sometimes interim managers shine, and get to keep the job long-term. That seems unlikely, but it would at least help Barcelona financially since his compensation would be relatively small. But in the more likely scenario where it does not pan out, Barcelona can have a few weeks looking for the right coach without the wrong coach still being around.