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Barcelona begin the Ronald Koeman era with style but must now retain their momentum

Ronald Koeman hopes to guide Barcelona to a bright future.
Ronald Koeman hopes to guide Barcelona to a bright future.
Raj Das
ANALYST
Modified 28 Sep 2020, 22:52 IST
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The fact that Ronald Koeman finds himself at the Barcelona hot seat, guiding the team from the touchline and hoping to stamp his unique authority on the club, is a testament to the turmoil the Blaugrana had undergone in the last couple of months.

No, Lionel Messi did not leave. He will still be at the Nou Camp come the end of next season, and he played the full ninety minutes against Villareal in Barcelona's La Liga opener where he produced yet another majestic performance.

However, his good friend, teammate and neighbour Luis Suarez was not there on the pitch. The Uruguayan was in fact in the Spanish capital, marking his debut for Atletico Madrid with a perfectly guided header and a left-footed strike.

Ronald Koeman’s problematic resume

Ronald Koeman does not have the most impressive of resumes.
Ronald Koeman does not have the most impressive of resumes.

Ronald Koeman may not have the most impressive resume. Indeed, there is very little to suggest, going by the list of teams he has managed in the past, that he could be the perfect man for Barcelona. But then neither did Quique Setien.

At least Koeman has a more spread-out work experience and is very much the journeyman manager. He has managed 11 different teams in a managerial career spanning over two decades.

However, worryingly enough, Ronald Koeman has not lasted more than three seasons at a single job. The only time he completed three years of managerial tenure at a club was at Feyenoord from 2011 to 2014.

Koeman was also responsible for another of Everton’s numerous ‘false starts’, the promise of a resurgence for the Merseyside club. However, that was not to be, and Koeman was quickly fired after one season with the Toffees. 

Ronald Koeman (left) with Mauricio Pochettino during his Everton days.
Ronald Koeman (left) with Mauricio Pochettino during his Everton days.
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Yes, Ronald Koeman did show promise while managing the Netherlands, getting an impressive 2-4 victory against Germany in the Euro 2020 qualifiers with a motley group of young and experienced players. But that is hardly the criteria to land a Barcelona job.

The Dutchman also managed to reach the Nations League final in 2018, where Netherlands narrowly lost out to Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.

Maybe the fact that he was a former Barcelona player played a part in his appointment. Maybe the fact that he is Dutch, and that he could possibly connect Barcelona to their roots also played a part in his appointment.

Either way, it is wishful thinking to expect Ronald Koeman to lead a resurgence at Barcelona. That is because his track record lacks in pedigree, and he has not spent significant time at any major club/team.

It seems unlikely that Ronald Koeman will be allowed more than a season at the Nou Camp.
It seems unlikely that Ronald Koeman will be allowed more than a season at the Nou Camp.
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Cracking down with an iron fist right from the outset that led to the departure of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, Ronald Koeman has attempted his best to have a fresh start, washing his hands off old players in positions that require speed and flexibility. Nelson Semedo soon followed suit too.

However, with top presidential candidate Victor Font having already made his managerial preferences clear, it could only be a matter of time before Josep Maria Bartomeu and subsequently Ronald Koeman are ousted from the Camp Nou helm,.

If anything, Ronald Koeman may have one limpid crack, at best, to salvage some of the club's former glory, but to see him managing Barcelona beyond the season seems unfeasible and unlikely. In his true fashion, Koeman could be all set to continue his trend of staying at a club for one or two seasons only.

Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona begin with a resounding victory

Ansu Fati could become Ronald Koeman
Ansu Fati could become Ronald Koeman's golden boy.

However, it has to be said that Ronald Koeman's Barcelona have begun their new season in stunning fashion. With a front-three of Ansu Fati, Lionel Messiand Antoine Griezmann, and with Philippe Coutinho pulling the strings in midfield, it was a new, unpredictable and exciting version of the Catalan giants.

Barcelona dominated Unai Emery’s Villareal right from the outset and found the back of the net within the first 15 minutes through a wonderful first-time Ansu Fati strike after Jordi Alba found the teenager free in the box.

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The 17-year-old then doubled his and Barcelona’s tally four minutes later. He was also the player fouled inside the box that led to the penalty which Lionel Messi converted to open his account for the 2020-21 season.

FC Barcelona looked impressive in their 4-0 victory over Villareal.
FC Barcelona looked impressive in their 4-0 victory over Villareal.

Right before half-time, we had to scratch our eyes as Sergio Busquets wormed his way into the box in a centre-forward’s position, leading to Pau Torres losing his bearings and generously scoring for Barcelona.

It was bedlam in the first half, and it was exciting. This was the kind of football that the Blaugrana faithful had been clamouring for so long, and at long last Barcelona have delivered.

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What can we expect from Ronald Koeman at Barcelona?

Ousmane Dembele almost seems like a new signing for Ronald Koeman.
Ousmane Dembele almost seems like a new signing for Ronald Koeman.

It is too early to judge Ronald Koeman’s work at Barcelona after just one game in charge. His team only had three friendlies to prepare themselves for the new season and now also find themselves needing to play mid-week games, with the La Liga clash against Celta Vigo coming up on Thursday.

However, unlike last season, where midweek games sapped the energy out of an ageing Barcelona, Ronald Koeman has a lot of young blood at his disposal this time around.

Ousmane Dembele, who made his first start since November 2019 after coming on in the 70th minute, almost seemed like a new signing making his first appearance for his new club under a new manager.

The first glimpses of Pedri were also promising, who like Fati, is also 17 and is surely the future of Barcelona. The 20-year-old Francisco Trincao looked promising too after coming on in the 78th minute replacing Antoine Griezmann, but he needs more game time to flourish. However, it is not difficult to envisage Trincao starting in place of Griezmann in the near future.

Pedri looked impressive during his substitute appearance for Barcelona.
Pedri looked impressive during his substitute appearance for Barcelona.
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It was also heartening to see Barcelona's backup keeper Neto putting up a commanding display. It was only the 31-year old’s third Barcelona appearance in a competitive fixture, but it hardly looked that way.

Jordi Alba looked like a man possessed, bombing forward with lung-bursting runs and creating the opener for Fati. He looked like a player who was excited to play football once again. There was new energy about him, and the whole team looked happy and relaxed.

Barcelona must retain their winning momentum in what could be Lionel Messi
Barcelona must retain their winning momentum in what could be Lionel Messi's last season for the club.

Gerard Pique, who had earlier promised to leave the club should fresh blood arrived to take his place, looked solid at the back, making a couple of vital interceptions.

Barcelona must ensure that they keep this momentum going. It is imperative for their success in what could very well be Lionel Messi’s final season at the Nou Camp.

Published 28 Sep 2020, 22:52 IST
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