New Telegraph

Koeman kicks off Barca’s redemption with Villarreal tie

Atmosphere of uncertainty has not completely left Camp Nou. It is in the midst of this condition that new Barcelona Manager Ronald Koeman will start his campaign when the Blaugrana take on Villarreal in a La Liga fixture on Sunday. Captain Lionel Messi sent shock waves across the football world when he announced his intention to seek fresh challenge away from Barcelona.

The whirlwind this move generated shook the foundation of the club and after a seemingly hot battle between the camp of the forward and that of President Bartomeu, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner reluctantly accepted to stay for at least one more season.

This saga invariably consumed so much time as the new manager hardly have enough time for his pre-season programme and despite the fact Messi is staying, Koeman can’t claim all is well with his new side heading into the new season proper. Koeman took over when the club slipped to their lowest ebb; they were coming against the backdrop of crashing to one of their heaviest defeats in the UEFA Champions League. The 8-2 thrashing by Bayern in the quarterfinal last term completely exposed the rot in the club which prompted their best player ever to want to jump the ship. Koeman, as a player, is a club legend himself, and the Dutch has even showed his no-nonsense approach to deal with issues around the club.

It is on record that his first meeting with Messi eventually triggered the player ’s anger and the coach also pointedly told one of the club’s best strikers ever Luiz Suarez he was not in his plans which necessitated his transfer to Atletico Madrid.

The coach has also shipped out midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal. To some pundits, Koeman is not the best person to guide the club out of doldrums; superficially, he may seem like a good fit. He’s a respected figure at the club at which he won four league titles and a European Cup as a player.

A student of Johan Cruyff, he also has the stylistic principles that are a key mandate for any manager at the Nou Camp. He has been largely defined by his disastrous stint at Everton and the fact that he has been sacked in four of his last nine jobs doesn’t portray him as a world class manager capable of masterminding the redemption desperately needed at Nou Camp. However, it is up to him to prove his critics wrong and he has to hit the ground running by securing a victory against Villarreal on Sunday.

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