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FC Barcelona Sack Ronald Koeman, Xavi Hernandez Frontrunner for the Job

FC Barcelona fired Ronald Koeman shortly after the team’s 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano in the La Liga on Wednesday.
Former FC Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez

As per reports, former midfielder Xavi Hernanez, who coaches Qatari side Al Sadd, is likely to take over as new FC Barcelona manager.

With a crucial UEFA Champions League match coming up, FC Barcelona are in a hurry to find a new coach with former midfielder Xavi Hernandez touted as a frontrunner for the big job. However, that process may take a bit more time, and the Spanish club named reserve team coach Sergi Barjuan as the caretaker manager after sacking Ronald Koeman on Wednesday. 

The club said Barjuan, 49, who played for Barcelona as a left back from 1993-2002 before finishing his playing career with Atlético, will be in the dugout for Saturday’s La Liga tie against Alavés. He was appointed Barcelona’s reserve team coach in July. 

Hernández, who was part of the squad that lifted the Catalan side to its greatest heights, appears to be the leading candidate. However, the 41-year-old has to free himself from his job coaching Qatari club Al Sadd. There is a small matter of a $1.16m release clause at Al Sadd. However, reports have surfaced that Xavi could return to Barca as early as next week along with his support cast -- brother Oscar, Sergio Alegre and Ivan Torres.

Next week, Barcelona travel to Ukraine to play Dynamo Kyiv in a match they need to win to boost their chances of reaching the Champions League knockouts -- keeping alive a two-decade long run.

Koeman, who had a torrid run this season, with the side losing to Bayern Munich, Benfica, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, kept justifying the defeats by saying the squad was no longer Europe’s elite. He insisted that injuries to key players had limited the attacking fervour. 

Club president Joan Laporta, even as recent as last month, had publicly backed Koeman, asking fans to be patient as the team was going through a rebuilding phase. Fans were getting increasingly impatient with Barcelona languishing in ninth place in the Liga standings, a position the club is not familiar with in recent history.

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The last straw came when Barca lost 0-1 at Rayo Vallecano, a club that had not beaten Barcelona since 2002. 

Koeman, a former Barcelona defender, took over Barcelona when its economic crisis was just being felt following a devastating 8-2 loss to Bayern at the end of the 2019-20 season that cost predecessor Quique Setién his job.

The 58-year-old Dutch coach led Barcelona to last season’s Copa del Rey title, but it exited the Champions League in the round-of-16 and finished the Spanish league in third place.

Koeman did, however, set the foundation of a rejuvenated Barcelona by bringing youngsters Pedri González, Gavi Páez, Ronald Araújo and Óscar Mingueza into his starting lineup and making Ansu Fati one of the team’s leaders along with veterans Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba.

(With additions from PTI/AP)

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