He’s only been in his job for a few days but Ronald Koeman is under no illusions. He knows he must bring the La Liga title back to the Camp Nou.
The appointment of Koeman as Barca boss has been the big La Liga 2020 news of the week, and the eyes of the Spanish and world media will be fixed on Catalonia as the new boss makes his mark and the Blaugrana prepares for the new season.
The former Everton head coach has taken over a club in some disarray. At the start of the 2019/20 season they expected to make it three domestic titles on the bounce, but by the end they had lost their crown and crashed out of the Champions League, slaughtered 8-2 by eventual winners FC Bayern.
Barca playing legend really wants this job
Koeman has had his eye on the Barcelona job for some time, having managed in the Netherlands, Portugal, England and already in Spain, leading Valencia to a Copa del Rey victory in 2008. But his heart has been in Catalonia, ever since he left as a player in 1995 after six spectacular seasons at the Camp Nou.
As a player he scored 90 goals in 192 appearances for Barcelona as he helped them win four La Liga titles in a row. Famous for his powerful dead ball kicks he scored many a goal from free-kicks and currently holds the record for 25 consecutive successful penalties in La Liga. He’s Barca’s top scoring defender of all time and only bettered in La Liga by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos.
Manager on a mission
After cutting his teeth as a manager with Ajax, where he won two league titles, Koeman had a stint at Benfica before winning the Eredevisie with PSV and the Spanish Cup with Valencia.
He won plaudits in the Premier League as a manager at Southampton, leading the Saints to their best ever Premier League position, sixth, with their record points total of 63. He took Southampton to the Europa League and was poached by Everton in 2016, who he immediately led to Europa qualification, but was sacked the following season after the Toffees made a slow start.
Taking over the Netherlands in 2018 Koeman has overseen a resurgence in his national team, after the Oranje had failed to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup. Developing young players such as Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt he transformed the team into UEFA Nations League finalists, losing out by a single goal to hosts Portugal.
But his exit from Everton still rankles and Koeman is keen to prove, once again, he can thrive in domestic football at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
The pre-season La Liga 2020 betting odds have Los Blancos as marginal favourites, but a fast start for the Blaugrana will change all that.
Koeman can sort out the mess
Last week, here at SBOTOP, we predicted a fire sale at the Camp Nou with few players in Barca’s ageing squad safe, and the new boss has wasted no time in starting the sweep-out. He’s already shown he’s not going to mess about, allegedly telling Luis Suarez in a 60 second phone call that he is no longer required at the club. The 33 year old Uruguayan is the Blaugrana’s third top scorer of all time and he starred in their last Champions League success after his £75m switch from Liverpool.
And Koeman has other players in his sights. Ivan Rakitic has been a mainstay of the Barca side in his six seasons at the club, but the Croatian managed just one goal in 42 games last season and he too could be on his way. As could midfield enforcer Arturo Vidal who has spent two seasons in La Liga and is rumoured to be on the way back to his former club Juventus.
Of course Lionel Messi is one of a few players guaranteed a place in Koeman’s team; and the new boss will make it a priority to make sure his skipper and talisman is happy. Messi was furious at the end of Barca’s season and thought to be considering his future at the club he has served throughout his career, but Koeman is confident of keeping his star at the Camp Nou.
The new boss needs to bring in new blood and Barca are still hopeful of attracting Inter Milan’s Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez to the club, but there is a lot more to be done.
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