RONALD Koeman has been handed a stay of Barcelona execution.
But the beleaguered Dutchman still faces the sack after Saturday’s game at Atletico Madrid.
Ronald Koeman’s days as Barcelona boss could be numbered[/caption]
The Dutchman’s side produced a Lisbon horror show[/caption]
Koeman’s days at the Nou Camp are numbered after the latest humiliation of their 3-0 Champions League drubbing at Benfica
While Koeman was undergoing his post-match inquisition, in which he insisted players remained behind him, club President Joan Laporta was INSIDE the dressing room holding his own inquest.
Laporta then summoned his three closest advisors – but not sporting director Jordi Cruyff – when the travelling squad touched down in Catalonia after their Lisbon trouncing.
The defeat – the first time since the 1972-3 season that Barca have lost their first two European fixtures – left Koeman’s side bottom of a group headed by Bayern Munich.
Koeman’s men have now not won any of their last five Champions League games across two seasons, losing four of them and conceding 14 goals and scoring just two in the process.
They are now reliant on beating Benfica in the return in December and other results going their way to avoid failing to make the knock-out stages for the first time in 20 years.
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Laporta and his colleagues spent an hour in urgent discussions, emerging shortly after 4am local time to say nothing.
Club sources then confirmed that Koeman would remain in charge for the trip to Madrid, hoping that youngsters Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi – who received his first Spain call at 17 on Thursday – can kickstart the season and prolong the Dutchman’s reign.
But that means Koeman – who is suspended from the bench and must watch from the stands in the Wanda Metropolitano after his red card in the draw at Granada – could see his spell finished by two former Barcelona stars in Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, the French striker who left on deadline day to ease the Nou Camp cash crisis.
And Laporta is already lining up potential successors for Koeman, still a Nou Camp legend after his 1993 European Cup Final-winning goal at Wembley, with a shortlist of four names in the frame.
FOUR IN THE FRAME
The fan favourite would be former midfield general Xavi, who has made it clear he would return to the club from his current role in Qatar with Al Sadd.
But he is understood to have angered Laporta by advising his presidential election rival Victor Font – before the eventual winner announced his candidacy – ahead of the vote of members.
The other front-runner was thought to be Belgium boss Roberto Martinez, whose immediate priority is next week’s Nations League semi-final against France and then potential Final with Italy or Spain as he seeks to land the Red Devils’ first major trophy.
Martinez, like Koeman a former Everton manager, is also a close personal friend of Cruyff, dating back to the sporting director’s time at Manchester United.
The two other potential successors are Italian Andrea Pirlo, available after being sacked by Juventus in the summer, and Argentine Marcelo Gallardo, currently enjoying his second spell in charge of River Plate in Buenos Aires.
But the complicating factor is the cost of dismissing Koeman, who actually paid half of his release clause when he left the Holland job to return to the Nou Camp.
It has been claimed that Koeman would be owed as much as £10.4m if he was sacked before the end of his contract, which runs through to next summer.
That is disputed but Barca, who have been ordered by LaLiga to have a total salary bill of just £84m this season – compared to Real Madrid’s limit of £638m – still owe Koeman’s predecessor Quique Setien and are attempting to wriggle out of the settlement agreement.
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Roberto Martinez is in the frame for the job[/caption]