Barcelona announced the firing of manager Ronald Koeman on Wednesday following a 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano, a result that dropped them to ninth on La Liga's table with just 15 points from 10 matches.
Per the club's statement, "Koeman will say goodbye to the squad on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva. FC Barcelona wishes to thank him for his service to the Club and wishes him all the best in his professional career."
Barcelona's struggles this season has extended beyond La Liga play. The team is also third in its Champions League group, with just three points in three games, behind Bayern Munich (nine points) and Benfica (four points).
Last season was a disappointment as well. Barcelona finished third in La Liga behind rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid and was eliminated from the Champions League in the Round of 16, though they did win the Copa del Rey.
But major changes to Barcelona's roster—most notably the exit of superstar Lionel Messi—left the proud Catalan giants in something of a disarray. Koeman was unable to steer that wayward ship into calmer waters.
The 58-year-old should land on his feet, however, after an extensive managerial career that has included stops at Ajax (2001–05), Benfica (2005-06), Valencia (2007-08), Southampton (2014-16), Everton (2016-17) and the Dutch national team (2018-20), among others.
With his sacking, the next major question will be who Barcelona hires as his replacement. Amongst the candidates appear to be River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo, former Barcelona superstar and current Al Sadd manager Xavi and Belgium national team manager Roberto Martinez:
Gabriele Marcotti @Marcotti
Marcelo Gallardo has been linked with European jobs for years. He'd be an interesting choice, but he's under contract and will likely take time to get him out (assuming they can). So I imagine if Koeman does go, Barca will get some internal interim guy. <a href="https://t.co/qTH2zb7jRq">https://t.co/qTH2zb7jRq</a>
Fabrizio Romano @FabrizioRomano
Xavi is still considered the favourite to takeover Barcelona job. He’d love to comeback as announced recently - Barça board already made contacts with Xavi weeks ago. Still waiting to proceed on talks. 🔴🇪🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FCB?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FCB</a><br><br>Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was in the list too.
Fabrizio Romano @FabrizioRomano
There’s no announcement in place yet for Koeman replacement at Barcelona. It’s gonna take few hours while negotiations are ongoing for Xavi to leave Al Sadd & become the new manager. 🔴🇪🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FCB?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FCB</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Xavi?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Xavi</a><br><br>Other candidates for Barça job also know Xavi is the favourite, as things stand. <a href="https://t.co/1LaHsGkNDc">pic.twitter.com/1LaHsGkNDc</a>
Getting this hire right is crucial for a Barcelona club that has continued to move in the wrong direction in recent years. Nobody expected a post-Messi world to be an easy adjustment. It takes a village to replace the GOAT.
But Barcelona have fallen on harder times than expectations at the club will allow. Koeman bears the brunt of that responsibility for now, but if an incoming manager struggles to move this current group of players in the right direction, the gaze of accountability may focus higher up the food chain.