Hatchet manager Ronald Koeman's crazy first week at Barcelona

In just one crazy week at Barcelona, hatchet manager Ronald Koeman has already lost Lionel Messi, fired Luis Suarez and taken the axe to a once-worshipped squad… Week two will see the start of his rebuild – but who on earth will be left?

  • Ronald Koeman today completes week one of his dream job at Barcelona
  • But it has been seven days of remarkable upheaval and turmoil at the Nou Camp
  • Lionel Messi has told the club he wants to leave after holding talks with Koeman
  • Koeman had already told Messi’s friend Luis Suarez that he would be transferred
  • Suarez is just one of several big-name players who are being moved on by Barca
  • That will help players such as Philippe Coutinho, who is back in favour 

And on the sixth day God said: I quit. Ronald Koeman’s first week as Barcelona’s coach is up today and in seven days he has lost the club’s third all-time leading scorer Luis Suarez and now the club’s all-time leading scorer and greatest player, Lionel Messi.

No one can accuse him of slow progress.

Koeman told Suarez he wasn’t wanted on Monday and on Tuesday Messi was telling Barcelona he wanted to leave.

The Dutch coach was brought in to shake things up but even he could not have expected this start.

On Monday Koeman will take charge of his first training session but Suarez will not be there and neither will Messi. Suarez’s lawyers are waiting to talk to Barcelona’s lawyers about how to pay off his contract.

One week ago Ronald Koeman was being unveiled as Barcelona’s new manager

In just seven days Koeman has managed to fire Luis Suarez (left) and alienate Lionel Messi

Barcelona may need more lawyers because they are now heading for a dispute with Messi over whether the clause that allows him to leave for free is still valid or if it ended in June.

Messi argues that because the season did not finish until August, the clause does not finish until the end of this month.

Let the lawyers deal with all that. Koeman will have enough to do on the training pitch.

In his first week he also told Ivan Rakitic, Samuel Umiti and Arturo Vidal that they have to leave the club. But they are not being given free transfers like Suarez so it remains to be seen if they are absent from the session on Monday, or present but training apart.

It also remains to be seen what will be the body language of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. All of them were conspicuous by their absence from the president Josep Bartomeu’s list of ‘untransferable players’ but it seems they are staying, Alba and Busquets largely because they have contracts that run to 2024 and 2023 respectively, and Pique because Koeman is not daft – he knows he is still Barcelona’s best defender.

Sergio Busquets (left) knows he will be dropped by Koeman for many future games

Samuel Umtiti is one of the other players who has been told he has no future at Barca

Will Philippe Coutinho be there on Monday? He jetted off to Brazil after winning the Champions League with Bayern Munich but not before a telephone conversation with Koeman in which the new Barca coach told him he was part of his plans.

Will Coutinho cut short his holiday to just one week to be there on day one for his new boss? When he comes back the two pals who welcomed him when he arrived from Liverpool will not be there.

Koeman’s 60-second call to Suarez was painless. Suarez knew what was coming and did not prolong the conversation. The other three Barcelona players told by Koeman to find new clubs also knew they were unwanted.

Rakitic and Vidal have one year left, Umtiti is contracted until 2023. In the case of the first two things could drag on if Barcelona insist on transfer fees and potential buyers hold out until October 5 to get free transfers for players who will be free agents in a year.

Umtiti’s injury record makes him a risky buy and there are no guarantees that the club will successfully find a buyer. With three years left on his deal, if he stays he will have to form part of the squad.

And despite telling those three they have no future at the club Koeman still has too many players. On day one he will have Sergio Busquets, Frenkie De Jong, Miralem Pjanic, Riqui Puig, Sergi Roberto, Monchu, Carles Alena, and Matheus Fernandes all ready to contest what looks like being a two-man central midfield. 

Philippe Coutinho will return in favour having won the Champions League with Bayern Munich

Frenkie De Jong is the midfield heartbeat of the new team that Koeman will start to shape

Gerard Pique remains Barca’s best defender so Koeman cannot afford to lose him

Left-back Jordi Alba’s long contract has perhaps saved him from feeling Koeman’s axe

He has already confirmed that he wants De Jong playing as the pivot in the Barca system but it looks like being a double-pivot and Koeman must decide who partners the Dutchman.

Occasionally it will be Busquets but more often than not it won’t be. He will not want eight players for two positions, he will want the club to move others on.

But players are proving difficult to shift and It may be that the player Barcelona fans absolutely do not want to lose is the one who leaves before those who have been put up for sale. Koeman’s headaches may have only just begun.

The Koeman project will see even more battles fought in its second week and beyond


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