Ronald Koeman is beloved by Barcelona for scoring the club’s most meaningful goal ever, but this season his integrity will be strongly checked when he tries to guide a squad in need of major surgery across one of their worst periods in recent memory.
Among the several duties of the Dutchman is to ensure that Lionel Messi remains inspired after the talisman of the club sensationally attempted last month to abandon the club before agreeing to remain for at least one more season.
Most notably, after a first trophyless season since 2008, which was exacerbated by the disappointing 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, he must formulate a way to get the team competing again.
Unpopular President Josep Maria Bartomeu clung to the image of the free-kick strike by Koeman against Sampdoria in 1992, when he portrayed the Dutchman as an icon that the team and supporters should all unite behind.
Indeed, it is no exaggeration to claim that the role of Koeman as a central member of the ‘Dream Squad’ of Johan Cruyff won him the job as well as his patchy record as a coach.
In his home country, Koeman’s only major achievement as a manager came, capturing league titles with Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven and guiding the national team to the European Championships before quitting the job to join Barca.
His last big trophy was in 2008, Valencia’s Copa del Rey win, which was one bright light in a miserable campaign where he was then dismissed on the verge of the relegation zone with the club.
Koeman had managed to pull off a clear-out of high-profile stars in Valencia and faces a similar challenge at Barca, with Bartomeu threatening that the door will be open to long-serving stars just before the Dutchman ‘s appointment.
Ivan Rakitic has already left for Seville, although Koeman has told Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez that they are no longer wanted, although a buyer for either player has yet to be identified by the team.
The coach is willing to introduce Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay to the Netherlands internationals, though Lautaro Martinez was already in talks with Inter Milan.
But the willingness of the team to fund new entrants is limited by the COVID-19 pandemic and will rely on them that world football ‘s largest wage bill.
The financial difficulties of the club and the failed change by Messi have contributed to growing scrutiny on President Bartomeu, with fans already protesting against him to obtain a vote of confidence.
But there is still a lot of curiosity above the uncertainty around Ansu Fati, 17 who last year made an incredible rise from the youth academy into the first team and may potentially be Messi ‘s successor if the Argentinian chose to depart.
Due to playing in the Champions League and beginning their competition at home in Villarreal on Sept. 27, Barca are resting for the first two weeks of the new season that begins on Saturday.