Koeman entering critical period with job on the line
Blaugrana prepare for a tricky weekend clash with Valencia at the Camp Nou before hosting Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kyiv, only to then clash with table-topping Real Madrid also in front of home support.
Koeman will likely need to pick up nine points if his tenure at Barcelona is to be extended, as dropped points against one or multiple upcoming opponents – especially if poor displays are a continued trend – is likely to spell disaster.
With his future in the balance and Barcelona regularly linked with interest in potential candidates to replace the Dutchman, here are five managers that Barça could turn to should they part ways with Koeman.
The story of a prodigal son returning home to save the club from disaster would write its own headlines. For Barcelona and Spain legend Xavi, the chance to take up his post at the Camp Nou would be a dream.
From 1998-2015, Xavi made over 700-appearances for Blaugrana while helping the club to 25 major trophies along the way. Xavi defined a club on the pitch, and could be in with a chance to help re-define it on the touchline.
— Sudesh (@SudeshBaniya10) October 14, 2021
His managerial record at Qatari outfit Al Sadd – to date – is certainly credible and comes with a 66.30% win percentage across 92 matches managed. But managing in Qatar is not the same as La Liga, and the gargantuan jump between leagues could be a real bug-bear for the Barça great. Still, few know the club better than him both on and off the pitch; that should count for something.
He may not be a son of Barcelona, but Luis Enrique has already endeared himself to the Blaugrana faithful both as a player and a coach.
Enrique spent eight seasons at the Camp Nou after moving from Real Madrid in 1996, and went on to help the club to seven major honors, including two La Liga titles. As a manager, Enrique was highly successful both at Barcelona B and with the first-team, managing a combined 305-matches between the two sides.
Clear difference with how Busquets is so exposed to transitions (not his strength at 33) in Koeman’s Barcelona, compared to Enrique’s very organised pressing system. A quality coach at Barca will extend Busquets career & allow him to hit the consistent levels he does for Spain.
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) October 10, 2021
Barcelona won nine major honors under his stewardship, including a Champions League title in 2014-15. His good record with the Spanish national team and willingness to turn to youth for La Roja could serve him well as the likes of Gavi, Pedri, and Ansu Fati have all served under his command.
One of the headline names for any managerial vacancy at a big club, Italian legend Andrea Pirlo would certainly field a phone call or two from Barcelona president Joan Laporta if and when Koeman gets the sack.
Laporta has advocated for Pirlo a great deal in the past, and though the Barca chief continues to push his name to be the one drawn out of a hat, the club’s board do not approve of the selection, with a clash between the two entities rumored to be ongoing.
There have been no official overtures from the club in Pirlo’s direction, but his only spell in top-flight football with Juventus netted La Vecchia Signora a Coppa Italia triumph as well as a Supercoppa Italiana. He may not have Luis Enrique’s CV, but the way in which Pirlo reads the game, as well as the gravitas that comes attached to his name, could be intriguing.
Erik ten Hag
Already rumored to be lined-up by Barcelona to replace his fellow Dutchman, Ajax Amsterdam boss Erik ten Hag would certainly be an interesting appointment in certain respects.
As Ajax headmaster, he understands the requirements necessary for a club of size and stature, as Ajax are expected to – at the bare minimum – win the Eredivisie year on year while keeping the likes of bitter rivals PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord Rotterdam at bay. But the Dutch giants are not expected to compete heavily in the Champions League year on year, nor does ten Hag manage a plethora of mega-stars.
Ajax are the only team across Europe's top five and the Eredivisie to have an expected goals total of over 20. Erik Ten Hag's side are relentless. pic.twitter.com/OJpEZNw16w
— Twenty3 (@Twenty3sport) October 14, 2021
And yet, there is a reason why Pep Guardiola is said to have provided his endorsement of ten Hag for the role on the back of the Dutchman having managed Bayern Munich II during Pep’s stint in Bavaria at the Allianz Arena. Could Barcelona continue their Dutch connections with ten Hag? It would hardly be a surprise.
With a CV as credible as any on this list, if not better, Antonio Conte could certainly foster change at Barcelona if he was given a call by the club’s hierarchy to take over from Koeman.
Conte has achieved a considerable amount of success across his stints at Juventus, Chelsea, and Inter Milan, winning nine major honors including league titles at all three charges. His dominant Serie A triumph with Inter last season could arguably be his biggest managerial highlight, as I Nerazzurri ran away clear winners by a 12-point margin.
But Conte’s reliance on a 3-5-2 formation is the antithesis of everything that Barcelona is about on the pitch, and though his success at bringing silverware at big clubs is certainly attractive, a club of Barça’s standing will undoubtedly prefer a manager that pushes for football to be played the right way.
This article was edited by Conor Laird.