In recent months, Ronald Koeman hasn’t so much resembled a dead man walking as one scurrying around booking his own plot at the cemetery, ordering some tasteful wreaths from the florist and chiselling his own epitaph on a headstone before climbing Dracula-style into his own coffin, getting comfortable and sliding the lid shut.
With Barcelona deep in a financial meltdown that was none of his doing, the Dutch manager was already working with both arms tied behind his back and his ankles hobbled. Koeman probably got an idea the jig was up when the club president, Joan Laporta, made it clear last summer that he was only still in the job because they couldn’t find anyone else to do it. Despite having since given the coach his decidedly unconvincing public backing on at least two occasions, Laporta finally pulled the trigger last night. Following back-to-back La Liga defeats at the hands of Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona’s president finally decided to send the Dutchman through the Door Marked Do One – even if it meant paying him €13m large that they don’t have.
So what now for this Catalan institution that has been reduced to the status of financial basket case, is on the verge of going out of Big Cup at the group stage and currently doesn’t look to have a snowball’s chance in hell of even qualifying for it next time around? The word on the piazza from the Fiver’s remarkably well informed urbane, sophisticated, hand-stitched-loafer-wearing Italian cousin In The Know Cinquer is that club legend Xavi Hernández has accepted an offer to take over at the Camp Nou, despite initial reluctance on Laporta’s part to give the former Barça midfield superstar the job.
Xavi’s appointment will not be rubber-stamped until he agrees the termination of his contract with Qatari club Al-Sadd, where he has been cutting his managerial teeth. Replacing one club playing legend with another who has far less coaching experience, at arguably the most critical point in the club’s history, may not seem anything like the best option for Barcelona right now. But they have got themselves into such an almighty mess, it’s the only one they’ve got.