Ronald Koeman has joined Barcelona as the new head coach on a two-year deal. He replaces Quique Setien, who was shown the exit door following the 8-2 thrashing the team suffered on the hands of Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Koeman is a Barcelona legend and a member of the club’s 1992 winning squad. He is well-known in Barcelona for his winning goal against Sampdoria. In his six seasons as a Barcelona player, Koeman made 264 appearances, scoring 88 goals as he shone in Johan Cruyff’s dream team, winning four consecutive La Liga titles. Koeman was one of the few men who had the opportunity to play and learn under Johan Cruyff. His arrival as Barcelona’s new manager could see him bring back the Dutch style of possession-based football, which is the tiki-taka. Koeman’s football coaching career has been full of ups and downs since he began as an assistant coach at Barcelona under fellow compatriot Luis Van Gaal a long time ago. His first big job was with Ajax before going on to manage clubs such as PSV, Benfica, Valencia, Southampton, and Everton. In 2018, Koeman became the head coach of the Dutch national team. He took them to the finals of the UEFA Nations League and qualified them for the 2020 Euros, which will take place next year. The board of Barcelona believes Koeman has the DNA of Barcelona and knows their philosophy. Koeman is also familiar with the Barcelona system, and in Koeman, the Barcelona board sees a man who embodies their glorious past.
Can Koeman bring back the Barca Identity?
Ronald Koeman is no new name to the Barcelona fans and also in the managerial world. However, he isn’t the first name that would come to the mind of a football fan when asked to name top managers in the world. Koeman has a massive responsibility on his shoulders, and he needs to turn around the fortunes that finished the season without a trophy for the first time since 2007/08 season. Koeman has the experience in coaching, but in terms of his track record as a manager alone, he hasn’t lit up the ground with the teams he has managed.
However, one could argue that Luis Enrique, who was the last successful manager in Barcelona, faced his struggles at AS Roma and Celta Vigo but won the treble for Barcelona in 2015. Koeman was part of the golden generation of Barcelona under Cruyff, and he is also known for his innate ability to bring the best out of youngsters. One of Barcelona’s most significant problems in the past few years has been the lack of quality youngsters moving into the first team from the infamous La Masia academy.
The La Masia had been the bedrock for Barcelona for a long time, producing talented players such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquet, Gerard Pique. Koeman has always been in favor of playing with homegrown players, and since Barcelona still has some talented players in their La Masia, Koeman is the perfect man to bring the best out of them. A gifted playmaker like Riqui Puig looks set to get a more prominent role under Koeman next season likewise Ansu Fati, who broke numerous records in 2019-20 season.
Barcelona badly needs some fresh blood in their team, and since Koeman has the DNA of Barcelona, he can definitely rebuild the first team and also restore their tactical identity. Barcelona needs to work out on the intensity of their team. Barcelona’s lack of intensity was evident in their famous games against AS Roma, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich. In recent years, Barcelona has found it challenging to play at a very high tempo for 90 minutes. Koeman needs to work on that area.
He could be the perfect manager to solve such problems because the Dutch national team he managed blended positional play with verticality which Barcelona needs at the moment.
Is Koeman taking a significant risk?
Koeman has left his role as Head Coach of the Netherlands national team to take over the hot seat in the dugout of Camp Nou, which looks like a daunting prospect. Koeman will have a lot of tasks to accomplish.
The size of the task at Barcelona is too big, with the squad being too old and bloated on large contracts. He will also face uncertainty over his future at Barcelona with elections coming next year after club President Bartomeu’s tenure ends. Barcelona’s presidential candidate Victor Font has already insisted that Koeman will not be the club’s manager if he wins the election. It, therefore, begs the question of why leave a job you have made massive strides ahead of next year’s Euros for the one in Barcelona.
The appointment as Head Coach of Barcelona is a massive gamble for the Dutchman. However, Koeman’s risk could end up becoming a wise decision if he succeeds in transforming the club’s fortunes next season.