HomeAntoine GriezmannRonald Koeman: Can Barcelona alumnus turn around the club's...

Ronald Koeman: Can Barcelona alumnus turn around the club’s fortunes?

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In 2008, Barcelona acquired the services of club old boy Pep Guardiola to take them out of a quagmire, the rest, as they say, is history.

With Ronald Koeman now confirmed as the next Barcelona coach, the Blaugrana are continuing the tradition of turning to someone with an illustrious playing career at the club, someone who understands the club’s ‘much-vaunted philosophy to help them come out of dire straits once again.

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However, Koeman will be taking over the reins at a time when the club has hit a nadir, literally, after an 8-2 demolition at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League and have an ageing and unsettled squad.

He might have a bigger problem in his hands if the unthinkable happens and Lionel Messi decides to leave the team that has been demanding superhuman performances from him on an everyday basis.

What will Ronald Koeman, a vastly experienced coach with a varied CV and proven credentials, strive to do at Barcelona in their deepest hour of crisis.

Squad overhaul

This is almost a given considering the directionless nature of the current composition. Ronald Koeman will look to ship off many of the older, pedigreed players such as Gerard Pique, Arturo Vidal, Sergio Busquets and Co. and try to bring in another playmaker into the mix.

However, Lionel Messi will remain the cornerstone of the Koeman project if the master stays on.

Such are the times post the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on global business that, before Koeman can venture into the transfer market, he will need to offload a veritable galaxy of stars to generate cash.

Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba and Samuel Umititi may also be headed for the exit door in such a scenario. Even Luis Suarez, with a glittering Barca career behind him and 16 goals and 8 assists to his name this season, may also be sent packing as Barca shift their focus at bringing younger talents who can have long careers at Camp Nou.

The focus might once again shift to La Masia after a few years in the shadows with academy graduates like Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati, already regular in the first team, given a go.

Barca president Josep Bartomeu has earmarked just four players who are deemed untouchable and they are – Lionel Messi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Frenkie de Jong and Clément Lenglet.

But there might be one more surprise player who will be instrumental to Barca under Ronald Koeman if the coach gives his assent. Philippe Coutinho, the expensive Barcelona outcast, may find himself back in the mix if the coach considers him in his plans.

Coutinho put in a stellar cameo towards the end of Bayern’s rout of Barcelona and might make a dramatic comeback to the Barca set-up.

Tactics, personnel

While Ronald Koeman was nurtured in the Barca aesthetic as part of the dream team under Johan Cryuff and later served as an assistant coach, he will bring more pragmatism to the team.

Koeman achieved unprecedented success at Southampton with limited resources and, despite a blip in fortune at Everton, turned around his career as coach of the Netherlands national team who he took to the Nations League final and back into the Euros.

The Oranje looked a rejuvenated lot under his stewardship, playing free-flowing attacking football with purpose.

Ronald Koeman relies on a central play-making linchpin and he might be in the market for one. Frenkie de Jong might shift to a deeper position and dictate play from there.

The focus will be on possession-based football as is the culture of Barcelona, but the rudderless nature of their passing in recent times will be attempted to be overhauled.

The Oranje under Ronald Koeman dominated possession but also, more importantly, rediscovered their killer instinct. Barca need to do the same, especially in big games.

Koeman was a defender himself and will look to shore up the faltering backline. Barca conceded a lot of crucial goals post the restart that led to them failing to defend their La Liga crown and new personnel at the back might be the need of the hour.

Ronald Koeman is adaptable, as shown by his stint at Southampton, focusing on the strength of the team at his disposal. He is also a good man manager, with the likes of Rafael Van der Vaart and James Ward-Prowse finding their feet under him during his long tenure.

Concerns

Ronald Koeman has always proclaimed that this is his dream job is to coach Barcelona. The pressure of his personal expectations and that of the club’s millions of fans will be on him at a period crisis for the club.

Also, with Koeman a died-in-the-wool Barca man, there will be fears that he makes the same mistakes at a time a breath of fresh air will do the heritage club a world of good.

Can he escape those loopholes and chart a new period of success like Pep Guardiola?  The world waits with bated breath.

Also Read: Lionel Messi: 3 next possible destinations for the Barcelona superstar

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