PETE JENSON: In the race to replace Koeman at Barcelona, Martinez can thrive on a tight budget, Pirlo is a cheap option… but Xavi looks the best bet if Laporta can forgive him for backing his presidential rival
- Barcelona are set to sack manager Ronald Koeman after Atletico Madrid match
- Their options to replace him are limited given the financial crisis at the club
- Roberto Martinez, Andrea Pirlo and Xavi are the leading candidates for the role
- Marcelo Gallardo, Diego Martinez and Pep Guardiola are all outsiders
As Barcelona get set to choose the man best suited to replace Ronald Koeman – the beleaguered coach looks certain to be sacked after the midweek humbling by Benfica in the Champions League – after their clash against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, the options range from an Italian playing legend with one year’s experience of coaching a top team, to a former Wigan boss now managing Belgium.
Barcelona have the international break to install a new coach but their options are limited by the Spanish League rules applied to teams who fail to operate inside LaLiga-imposed salary limits.
With that in mind, Sportsmail here looks at the options as the club try and pick the man to save their season.
Time is up for Ronald Koeman at Barcelona after yet another dismal performance and result
Club president Joan Laporta is now ready to wield the axe and replace the struggling Koeman
Roberto Martinez earned a reputation for playing good football on a budget at Wigan
The €1.8m (£1.6m) Martinez will have to pay Belgium to leave his current role is probably not enough to stop him from signing for Barcelona if they offer him the job. He showed at Wigan that he can play good football and win a trophy with limited resources, which is the job description at Barcelona these days. Perhaps he lacks pragmatism but Koeman has shown plenty and Barca supporters don’t seem to care too much for it so that wouldn’t matter.
VERDICT: Wants the job and would come when called once the Nations League is over during this international break. He could be the right mix of experience at a high level and a Barca-type football philosophy.
He would come and he would be relatively cheap with no compensation to pay because he’s a free agent and has fairly low wage demands. But very little he did at Juventus suggests at this stage of his career he would be up to the task of turning around the Titanic. Laporta likes him though and he does have form for picking a young outsider, backing him on the basis of very little solid evidence that his gamble will work – he did it with Frank Rijkaard and, in slightly different circumstances, Pep Guardiola.
VERDICT: Bringing in someone like this worked with Rijkaard but that was with Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho up front and Lionel Messi emerging. He could have a positive effect on young midfielders Pedri and new Spain call-up Gavi. Would still be a huge gamble though.
Andrea Pirlo is a cheaper option for Joan Laporta but is unproven in management
Laporta in the past has said he does not want to burn out a club legend (bit late for that regards Koeman) and Xavi has always hinted now might not be the best time to take the job. But with the situation ‘critical’ in the words of Busquets both might be open to rethinking their positions. Some have suggested there is some rancour on the part of Laporta because Xavi backed another candidate during the last election – but he never actually came out and publicly supported Victor Font, and what is more Jordi Cruyff was also linked to Font but has ended up working with Laporta.
Jordi Cruyff has a good relationship with Xavi and would be the fixer. Xavi would play an attacking 4-3-3 with youth given its chance, as the supporters demand. It might not bring results this season but it cannot be worse than bottom of the Champions League group and yet to score. In many ways this is the perfect time for Xavi because with Messi gone and the bar set so low in terms of performances in big games, people would give him some patience to deliver.
VERDICT: In the current circumstances the best man for the job. More a long-term solution than an immediate fix though. Club would have to give him time.
Xavi ticks many boxes for Barcelona but appeared to favour Laporta’s rival for the presidency
The River Plate coach seemed a feasible option when Messi was still at the club and has been, to some extent, forgotten since he left. But Messi or no Messi he remains a coach who knows how to handle the pressures of a big club after seven years at River, where he has won the Copa Libertadores twice. He would not demand a high salary at the start and he has a good reputation for developing young players and for possession-based football. Not an appointment that would really appease supporters though and could backfire on Laporta if it failed.
VERDICT: Would have the advantage of coming in as a complete outsider. Then again that never helped Tata Martino. Definitely not top of the list.
Ex-Argentina star Marcelo Gallardo has won the Copa Libertadores twice with River Plate
He won’t get a mention because he has no connections to Barcelona but the job he did at Granada getting them promoted, into Europe, and into the Europa League quarter-finals ought to make him an option.
VERDICT: He’s a free agent who the club could afford but not Barca enough for the purists.
Diego Martinez is a free agent after three successful years at Granada
Knows the club and might relish the chance to build something new around the talents of Ansu Fati, Pedri, Gavi, Frenkie de Jong and Ronald Araujo. Some signs of discontent so far this year at City and is no nearer to delivering the Champions League because of PSG’s spending. Laporta would welcome it but is unlikely even to test the water. Would be a better option than all the above, but wouldn’t come mid-season.
VERDICT: Barcelona’s sense of urgency, lack of funds, and general state of chaos demands other solutions.
A return to the Nou Camp for Pep Guardiola is highly unlikely given their financial state
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