Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reportedly identified three potential replacements to coach the club in case Ronald Koeman leaves his post at the end of the season.
Club legend Xavi Hernandez, Ajax coach Erik ten Hag, and Barcelona B coach Francisco Javier García Pimienta are all in the frame to take over, according to RAC1 journalist Gerard Romero.
Koeman signed a two-year deal when he replaced Quique Setien as manager in August 2020, but there are “growing doubts” about the Dutchman’s continuity after some poor results, according to Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens at ESPN.
Damaging defeats to Granada and Real Madrid coupled with costly draws against Atletico Madrid and Levante have seen hopes that Barcelona could win La Liga this season drift away.
The Catalan giants sit four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with just two games of the 2020-21 season remaining. Koeman has guided the club to success in the Copa del Rey in his first campaign in charge but that may not be enough to keep him in his job.
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Xavi Denies ‘Barcelona Clause’
Former midfielder Xavi has long been linked with a return to Barcelona but the prospect of the Catalan heading home looks remote currently. Xavi has just extended his stay as coach of Qatari side Al Sadd until 2023.
There had been reports that Xavi’s contract contains a ‘Barcelona clause’ which would allow the 41-year-old to return to the Camp Nou for free. However, Xavi has insisted such reports are false, as reported by Al Sadd’s official website.
“This is incorrect. I have a two-season contract with Al-Sadd, and I respect this contract, and I also respect the official negotiation methods between all parties,” he said. “Our challenge is to continue to improve and develop, and I am very excited to help Al-Sadd players do that.”
Ten Hag or Garcia Pimienta To Replace Koeman?
Xavi is not the only candidate to have signed a new contract recently. Ten Hag extended his deal as Ajax boss in April until 2023 and spoke about his happiness at the club, as reported by ESPN.
“We want to work on a successful and attractive Ajax,” he said. “I know what I have here and I know the people I work with here. I also know how we can take the next step with this team. I’m happy here.”
Ten Hag has drawn admiration for his work with the Eredivisie side. He has won the league and cup twice since taking the job in 2017 and also guided a young and exciting Ajax team to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019.
The Dutchman’s teams are renowned for playing attractive attacking football which makes him an obvious target for Barca. Yet it remains to be seen if Ten Hag can be tempted away having so recently committed his future to the Dutch club.
Meanwhile, Garcia Pimienta is the least well-known on the list but knows all about Barcelona and has worked as a coach at the club since 2001. The 46-year-old is currently in charge of the reserve team and has coached talents such as Ilaix Moriba, Oscar Mingueza, Riqui Puig, and Ronald Araujo who are all now with the first team.
Garcia Pimienta has also guided Barcelona B to the promotion playoffs this season and told Beteve earlier this month he’s ready to make the step up.
“I’m ready to coach the first team, it’s my duty. It would be unrealistic if I am not prepared. It is my intention and my enthusiasm, considering that it is complicated,” he said. “We [players, doctors, physios] must all be prepared to go up to the first team and do our job well.”
Koeman is set to meet with club president Joan Laporta at the end of the campaign to discuss the future. The Dutchman admitted to reporters after Tuesday’s costly 3-3 draw with Levante that he understands there will be questions over position.