Despite having overcome a deluge of seemingly insurmountable difficulties at Barca this season, developments in the Middle East could anytime soon be brought to bear on Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman’s future.
Recent developments in the Middle East could soon see Koeman’s position as Barcelona manager under threat following as the Dutchman has endured a turbulent season in charge of Barca on and off the pitch with the Spanish giants.
The season had kicked off with rumors and speculation over the future of Lionel Messi, who was unhappy then and reportedly ready to push for a move away from the club he has starred for since 2004. Messi however stayed put at Barca although has yet to renew his current contract which runs out this summer.
The financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic also took its heavy toll on the club, who announced losses of £88million in October.
It wasn’t also all smooth sailing on the pitch as well, with the 4-1 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain at the Camp Nou in February a kick in the crotch for Koeman, to say the least. Barca were subsequently knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage by PSG in the second leg and the result led to calls for Koeman to be given the boot.
However, to his credit, the resilient former Southampton and Everton boss survived the onslaught and has actuallly managed to turn results around in recent months, pushing Barcelona back into the La Liga title race, with the Blaugrana having lost just two of their past 24 league games since mid-December and currently sit third, level with Real Madrid and two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, with three matches to play.
Then came the major turnaround with Joan Laporta’s resounding victory at the presidential race to secure a second term in charge of the club, which saw talk turning optimistically to the future, with Barca’s plans for the summer transfer window key to the rebuilding of team and club.
Eurosport brought heartwarming news with its recent report that club talisman and skipper Messi is willing to sign a new Barca contract and een take a pay cut, provided the club commits to demontrating ambition in the transfer window and not just inflate the balloon with hot promises.
It seems Barcelona are now anxiously trying to do just that, with Sport reporting that they have come up with a six-man wish list for the summer, which includes Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, Lyon’s Memphis Depay, Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martinez and Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum. A most impressive list, no less.
Koeman himself has personally led the pursuit of Dutch pair Depay and Wijnaldum and obviously hopes to be given the chance to start the 2021/22 season at the helm but the skies above the Dutchman seem to be getting a shade darker as his position as manager has been under constant scrutiny. And now the familiar spectre of former Barca midfielder, Xavi, looming ominously over him.
The legendary Xavi left Barcelona in 2015 to finish his playing career with Middle Eastern club Al Sadd before taking over the club as manager upon his retirement in 2019. He has long been groomed as a potential Barca manager and even pluckily rejected the job in January 2020 following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, proffering the excuse then that he was not ready for the role. Obviously he had seen then the unholy mess that the club was embroiled in under the farcical mismanagement of former president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his cronies and decided to caution restrain and stay more than the proverbial arm’s length away for the time being.
Reports earlier this week emerged that he was all ready to leave his position with Al Sadd at the end of the season, but AS now say he is about to sign a new two-year contract with the Qatari club – but with a catch, however. The 41-year-old’s contract will include a ‘Barca clause’ which would automatically free him from the post, at no punitive cost whatsoever, should Barcelona offer him the chance to return to the club as manager.
The Barcelona legend played for Barcelona for 17 years and is a firm believer and follower of the club’s world-beating playing philosophy.
If Koeman should come under pressure anytime soon again, then it is pretty likely that rumors of Xavi’s return will again rise like a phoenix from the ashes and, with a clause specifically designed for that eventuality, he could be in real trouble this time.