Ronald Koeman facing Dutch revolution at Barcelona

We’ve been here before, Ronald! Koeman getting rid of experienced pros at Valencia proved disastrous… now he’s been given the same task at Barcelona, can he get it right this time?

  • Ronald Koeman has already received the nickname ‘Sergeant’ at the Nou Camp 
  • Valencia hired the former Holland manager in 2007 to break up a dressing room
  • One of Koeman’s first acts at Barcelona was start overhaul of experienced stars

It didn’t take long for Ronald Koeman to get his new nickname. ‘Sergeant’ has already appeared in the Spanish sports media and Marca claims some in the Barcelona dressing room have begun to use it for the new boss.

Earlier this week Diario Sport splashed ‘Koeman’s 10 commandments’ across its front page. And those that want a new broom to sweep the club clean have put their faith in him to manage the change.

Valencia did pretty much the same in 2007, hiring him to break up a dressing room cabal of experienced and decorated players. It’s well documented that it did not end well.

Ronald Koeman has been nicknamed ‘Sergeant’ as he starts his overhaul at Barcelona 

The team won the Spanish Cup but he cut an oddly detached figure at the end of the team photo on the pitch with the trophy. And five days later he was sacked with an 18 percent win rate in his 22 games in charge. At that time no one in the club’s history had left with a worse record.

The club felt they had to make the change to avoid relegation. Koeman’s last game was a 5-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao – Valencia’s worst in 25 years.

Just as one of Koeman’s first acts at Barcelona was to tell Arturo Vidal, Luis Suarez and Samuel Umtiti they were not wanted, so at Valencia he told captain David Albelda and other senior players Migue Angel Angulo and Santi Canizares that they had to leave the club.

At Valencia in 2007, Koeman was hired to break up a dressing room of experienced players 

They didn’t leave. They never played a minute under him but when he was fired they returned with the team only two points above the relegation places with five games left to play.

Albelda tweeted in 2014: ‘I hear people talking about Koeman. I wish he could coach Barcelona one day. That way the league would even up a bit.’

In 2020 we will find out if Koeman’s appointment really does help ‘even up the league’. He is not the same coach that went into Valencia all guns blazing. But as he showed in his presentation he still cowers from nobody, no matter their reputation.

He will need the immediate backing of the Barcelona board.

One of Koeman’s first acts at Barcelona was to tell veteran forward Luis Suarez to leave

Koeman has told Suarez, Vidal and Umtiti that they are surplus so he really needs the club to find new homes for them. That means negotiating with Inter so they take Vidal and paying-off Suarez’ remaining year.

If, when the season starts those two players are still at Barcelona it will not be Koeman’s fault, but it will be his problem. His authority will be undermined.

Just as debilitating for him will be to see his transfer targets come to nothing.

It’s clear he likes Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay. It’s also clear that Barcelona don’t have any money. Unless players either leave or can be exchanged for said targets it looks as if both are destined to stay where they are.

It’s clear Koeman likes Lyon’s Memphis Depay, who he managed during his time at Holland

If when Barcelona face Villarreal on September 27 Koeman still has the players he told to leave and does not have those he wanted to arrive, a tough job will have got tougher.

There has been plenty of talk of Koeman bringing to an end certain players’ privileges with training sessions lasting longer and with increased intensity.

Some players will embrace the new discipline but will those same players win Koeman the games that keep him in charge and so strengthen his hand?

Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum is another target in his bid to change the culture of the club

Or will he be left relying on the very players whose alleged power over team affairs some have wanted to curb?

One thing can be relied on: Koeman will not shy away from the challenge and if he is asked to put his medals on the table he can do so, his silverware will even have the right club colours on it. The club’s in-house television channel is not going to tire of showing his Wembley ‘92 goal any time soon. He never had that credit in the bank at Valencia.

His reputation as a coach precedes him. For every story that exists of no one being allowed to sit down at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground canteen until he had taken the first bite of his meal, there’s also a story about how, even at the end of his time at Everton, he had not completely lost the dressing room.

The Dutchman has a stern reputation and was reportedly a disciplinarian in his time at Everton  

Disciplinarian coaches have a varied record at Spain’s two big clubs. At Real Madrid Fabio Capello won two leagues, but Rafa Benitez was gone in a matter of months.

At Barcelona Luis Enrique was the last coach to take on all comers. There was a mutiny in the January of his first season with Lionel Messi skipping training. But Xavi calmed the waters and the coach ended up winning the treble, embracing Messi after they had won the European Cup together.

That would be some end for Koeman to end this season. Especially in view of how his first meeting with Messi ended – with the captain telling the coach he did not want to be at the club.

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