La Liga 'lacking star player' after Messi's Barcelona exit
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Barcelona managerial targets Andrea Pirlo and Marcelo Gallardo are both reportedly open to replacing Ronald Koeman in the Camp Nou hotseat. Although the Catalan side fell to another embarrassing defeat on Wednesday night, the Barca board are believed to be preparing to hold fire on sacking the Dutchman ahead of this weekend’s clash with Atletico Madrid.
Benfica’s 3-0 triumph over Barca on Wednesday night consigned Koeman’s side to their second Champions League defeat in a row.
In fact, it is the first time in their history that they have begun a Champions League campaign without netting in their first two games.
Koeman was already under serious pressure thanks to worrying results against Bayern Munich, Granada and Cadiz, but Wednesday night has plunged the club to a new low.
Speculation continues to stir as to what Barca will do next, and who will be in line to replace the former Netherlands boss if they do decide to go their separate ways.
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Until recently, Roberto Martinez and Xavi were seen as the two favourites to succeed the Dutchman in the Camp Nou dugout.
However, two new names have emerged in Italian pass master Andrea Pirlo and longstanding River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo.
According to Fabrizio Romano, both candidates are ‘open’ to coaching Barca if they are given the opportunity to do so.
Both managers would have to prepare to be thrown into the lions’ den, however, with the mood around the club in need of brightening and financial trouble behind the scenes.
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The introduction of two fresh candidates will come as a blow to Martinez, who was previously seen to be the front-runner but supposedly felt compelled to see through his commitment to the Belgium national team in next month’s Nations League finals.
If either Pirlo or Gallardo convinces president Joan Laporta that they can take the club forward, Martinez may have missed a golden opportunity.
Still, it is clear that Barca still do not have a replacement in line to step up immediately, which seems to have kept Koeman in the job for now.
According to Marca, it would be a ‘surprise’ if they parted ways with the Dutchman before Saturday’s trip to Atletico Madrid.
It could be another rude awakening for Koeman and Barcelona, with Atletico representing a step up in class from the sides they have been struggling against of late.
Last weekend’s 3-0 win over Levante did offer the club a brief reprieve from the barrage of media pressure sent their way, but Wednesday’s loss put them right back to square one.
A trip to the Wanda Metrapolitano is one of the toughest assignments La Liga has to offer, so Koeman’s main objective could be to avoid total disaster on Saturday.
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