Ronald Koeman is out, and it’s looking almost certain that Xavi will be in as FC Barcelona’s new manager. Koeman’s men improved on a torrid first half of the season with a great second half, but over the summer, things fell apart. Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann left, and while the Catalans made some smart free transfers, the talent level dropped. Still, Koeman could not keep up even with reduced expectations, and the team went through terrible results.
Xavi was the one the club really wanted, not Koeman. It was Xavi who turned down Josep Maria Bartomeu’s offer to takeover for Ernesto Valverde, allowing Quique Setién to be appointed. After Setién’s sacking, Xavi’s name was once again rumored, but ultimately the job was given to Koeman.
Joan Laporta never seemed to have a great relationship with the Dutchman, at first refusing to fully commit to keeping him as manager over the last summer. Laporta eventually relented, but it’s easy to imagine the reason for that was because the team didn’t have a lot of money and he didn’t want to pay Koeman a ton of money in severance pay.
That uneasy alliance was doomed to fail, even if Laporta tried to bring Koeman’s preferred players like Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong. Just a few matches into the season, Koeman was already being threatened with the sack in the press.
In retrospect, it seems like a mistake to commit to Koeman at all. He was in good standing for a great second half of the season, and had a contract which entitled him to a lot of money if he were to be relieved of his duties. So it was completely understandable to continue with him. But with hindsight it seems like the wrong choice.
At the beginning of the month, I wrote that Koeman should be sacked without delay, and an interim coach should be appointed if the long-term choice was not available.
I still think it would’ve been wiser to sack him then (or even earlier, during the summer if possible) than now. It seems more or less that a month of time was lost. But at the very least, Laporta is making the move and not letting it go for longer.
Now, it’s up to Xavi. He’s Barcelona’s golden boy and his hiring was even more inevitable than Koeman’s firing. What the Catalans need now is patience. Results will not be great for a long time. How could they? The squad is not at the required level. It will take a long time to fix.
For that reason, the club should be patient. Koeman was not Laporta’s hire, but Xavi is. There is finally some coherence about the project, which has been in chaos for a long time.
Make no mistake, most of this is Bartomeu’s mess that Laporta merely inherited. It will take at least as long, if not longer, to undo the mess as it took to create it in the first place. That means many years.
Xavi is unproven as a manager outside of Asian football, so it may be a learning experience as well. The wise thing now is to give him a lot of time and a lot of patience.