Facing an institutional and sporting crisis after their 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, Barcelona look set to return to their roots by turning to Ronald Koeman, a member of Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team” who delivered the Catalans’ first European Cup.
A club source confirmed on Tuesday that Barca is negotiating a deal to release the Dutchman from his current contract as coach of the Netherlands national team, whose fortunes he has transformed.
The imminent appointment of Koeman comes after Barca sacked coach Quique Setien on Monday and brought forward presidential elections after incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu faced widespread calls to resign over his leadership of the club.
Bartomeu, president since 2014, faced an internal revolt earlier this year as six key directors resigned from the board because of the club’s handling of a scandal involving a social media monitoring firm.
He has also received criticism for the club’s financial troubles, which forced them to enact a pay cut to staff in April as a result of the coronavirus pandemic despite having the highest revenues in world soccer.
Should he take the Barca job, Koeman will miss out on leading his country into the European Championships next year after a stellar qualifying campaign. The Dutch failed to reach the Euro 2016 and 2018 World Cup tournaments under their previous coaches.
Koeman, 57, spent six years as a Barca player and won their hearts in 1992 with his goal from a free-kick in the European Cup final against Sampdoria to end the club’s long wait for Europe’s biggest prize.
The former defender, affectionately known as “Tintin” for his supposed likeness to the Belgian comic strip character, returned to Barca as assistant coach to compatriot Louis van Gaal in 1998.
He then embarked on a career as a head coach with Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem before landing the job at Ajax Amsterdam, going on to win two league titles.
Koeman has coached the three biggest clubs in the Netherlands in Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven plus AZ Alkmaar, Benfica, Southampton, Everton and Valencia, the latter being his only previous coaching job in Spain.
That role ended in disaster and he was sacked in 2008 with the team hovering above the relegation zone, despite having led them to win the Copa del Rey that same year.
Koeman’s time at Everton also ended in disappointment and a relegation battle, but his patchy coaching record rarely affected his standing at Barca, and his name was routinely mentioned whenever the club needed a new manager.
He was also approached earlier this year when Ernesto Valverde was sacked, but turned down the offer because of the looming European Championships, which were later postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic.