Barcelona coach Xavi expressed his gratitude for the support from former boss Ronald Koeman as he implored the Blaugrana to respond against Real Mallorca.

Xavi's side sit third in LaLiga, a point behind second-placed Sevilla – who have played a game more – and 15 behind runaway leaders Real Madrid.

However, Barca have fallen to three straight home defeats in all competitions for just the second time in their history, last doing so under Louis van Gaal between the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.

That torrid run culminated in their elimination from the Europa League and placed slight doubt over Champions League qualification, though they are six points ahead of fifth-placed Real Betis.

Koeman suggested on Thursday that Xavi deserves more support than he received when at Barca, with the Spaniard lifting the Blaugrana from ninth to third following the Dutchman's dismissal last October.

While Xavi welcomed the support of a fellow coach and revealed his admiration for Koeman, the 42-year-old urged Barca to improve against Mallorca on Sunday.

"I'm not going to change the feelings that Ronald has. I wasn't there and I'm not going to give my opinion," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday.

"I have tremendous respect and admiration for him. Everyone has to support Barca. I have the utmost respect for Ronald for the work and effort he made. Thank him, nothing more.

"We are here and I do feel the support of the club and of Barcelona in general. It seemed that we had hit the key, but suddenly there were three defeats in a row.

"Now we have to see to the coach, the players, show our faces."

Barca have never lost four home games in a row in their history, and Xavi reiterated his calls for his side to respond against Mallorca, who have lost their last eight league meetings with the Blaugrana.

"It is time to take a step forward," he added. "You have to make more of a team than ever and bring out your personality. It's not because of a bad attitude.

"It's because of situations that have weighed us down. We have to improve. It's time to push it forward and bring out the personality. I have a winning team and that's the reality.

"You have to set challenges. Those who have the most desire will enter the Champions League. This is a club made to win titles. The second is the minimum required.

"On Monday we were angry, on Tuesday less and on Wednesday we were already working.

"It is a reality and you have to prepare yourself for that. You have to have faith to achieve the minimum objective."

Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid will be crowned champions if they avoid defeat against Espanyol the day before Barca are in action.

"If they are champions, we will congratulate them," he said of Madrid.

"They have been better because this is a long competition and usually the one who deserves it wins. We will congratulate them and next year we will compete better."

Ronald Koeman has called on former club Barcelona to show Xavi more support than he received in the Camp Nou dugout and defended his own record with the Blaugrana.

Koeman spent just over a year in the Camp Nou dugout before being sacked in October 2021, winning the Copa del Ray last season but overseeing a third-place finish in LaLiga and the departure of legendary attacker Lionel Messi.

Barca sat ninth in the top flight when the Dutchman departed, but are now favourites to secure Champions League qualification after Xavi oversaw an upturn in results. 

However, the Catalan giants recently lost three successive home games for just the second time in their illustrious history, and Koeman says club president Joan Laporta must show Xavi more support than he was granted during his own spell in charge.

"The situation of Barca, of the team and of the club, is the same as when I was [there]," he said at a golf event in Barcelona. "It means that changing the coach does not always mean being able to improve. The situation of the club hurts me.

"From January I will be the coach of the Netherlands, but I ask for maximum support for Xavi. He is a good coach, a legend at home and it is not his fault that Barca is in this situation.

"The only thing I ask is support for Xavi, I haven't had the full support of a president, I hope he [Laporta] has learned and does support Xavi. I didn't have support from the club and I hope Xavi does.

"Internally, you can say you have doubts, but on the outside there has to be support." 

Barca enjoyed an upturn in results after the January arrivals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres but rivals Real Madrid are now 15 points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Los Blancos will secure their 35th title by earning a point at home to Espanyol on Saturday after winning eight of their last nine league games (one loss), and Koeman says that gap is evidence that his time in charge was not a complete failure, highlighting financial difficulties and presidential elections as having a severe impact throughout his tenure.

 

"When I left, Madrid was eight points ahead and now the difference is almost double," he added. "I don't feel like a failed coach, far from it. 

"In January we were twelve points behind Atletico Madrid, we had the opportunity to be first against Granada and we failed. We kept the Copa and if you win a title it's not a failure.

"I spent many months without a president, I had to make statements about the club's situation, there was financial fair play [issues]. Then Messi and [Antoine] Griezmann left on the last day of the market. 

"I was heavily criticised for signing Luuk Jong, who is very good when you need a finisher. Luckily his goals have given five or six points in the last few minutes. I think that one person or a coach cannot be blamed for the loss of [the club's] DNA."

Koeman will reclaim his former position as Netherlands head coach after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar when he takes over from Louis van Gaal and will be reunited with Blaugrana midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

De Jong has come in for some criticism for his recent displays and has been linked with a move to Manchester United, but Koeman believes the 24-year-old will prove any doubters wrong.

"I don't think Barca wants to sell Frenkie, Xavi doesn't want to either," he added. "You don't have to doubt Frenkie de Jong, I don't doubt him and he's a starter in the national team. We put a player on top of everything and two weeks later we criticise him."

Louis van Gaal confirmed he has successfully undergone treatment for prostate cancer following the reveal of his diagnosis.

The Netherlands coach announced he was suffering from the illness on a Dutch television show earlier this month.

The news raised questions over whether Van Gaal would be well enough to lead the Oranje at this year's World Cup, set to take place in Qatar in November and December.

But now the ex-Barcelona and Manchester United boss has revealed he has successfully received a course of action against the cancer.

"I've been through everything," the 70-year-old told Dutch news agency ANP. "I had 25 radiation treatments. Then I had to wait five or six months to see if it had done its job. It did."

Van Gaal will step down after he has led his country at Qatar 2022, with the Oranje boss looking to better his third-place finish in charge at Brazil 2014.

It will bring the curtain down on his third spell at the helm of the national team, with another former boss in Ronald Koeman set to replace him.

Netherlands next face Belgium, Wales and Poland in their UEFA Nations League kick-off in June.

Ronald Koeman will return to his former role as head coach of the Netherlands national team after the 2022 World Cup.

The former Barcelona boss will take over from Louis van Gaal, who revealed recently on Dutch TV show Humberto he has undergone 25 rounds of radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

The 70-year-old has continued to work and did not tell his players of his condition when the Netherlands squad got together in March for friendlies against Denmark and Germany.

However, Van Gaal will remain in charge for the tournament in Qatar, which takes place between November 21 and December 18, with Koeman resuming the role he left in 2020 after that.

The news was confirmed by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) on Wednesday.

"I am looking forward to the new collaboration," Koeman said. "A little over a year and a half ago, I certainly did not leave the Dutch national team out of dissatisfaction. 

"My stay felt good, the results were good and the connection with the players was good. We will soon continue on that path, that is certain to me."

Marianne van Leeuwen, director of professional football for the KNVB, said: "We are very happy that Ronald will return next year. During his previous term as national coach, there was great satisfaction with his work and the results.

"That is why, after internal deliberations, together with director of top-level football Nico-Jan Hoogma, I entered into discussions with Ronald and his agent Rob Jansen."

Koeman previously spent just over two years as national team coach between 2018 and 2020, guiding the Netherlands to the final of the 2018-19 Nations League, before leaving for Barca in August 2020.

The Netherlands will face hosts Qatar, Senegal and Ecuador in Group A at the World Cup following Friday's draw.

Ronald Koeman believes he was not afforded the same support successor Xavi has received from the Barcelona hierarchy and says he will not return to the club while Joan Laporta remains president.

In an interview with Dutch newspaper AD, Koeman also questioned why Lionel Messi had to leave Barca, only for the club to reinvest in new attackers under Xavi.

Koeman, who made 264 appearances for the Blaugrana as a player, was sacked as the club's head coach last October with the team sat ninth in LaLiga.

The former Netherlands boss has now opened up on his tenure in the Barca dugout, during which he battled with a dire financial situation and the departure of Camp Nou icon Messi, saying Laporta did not afford him the support he needed.

"I just wasn't Laporta's trainer," the 58-year-old said. "I had that feeling from the very first moment I met him, after he won the election [in January 2021]. There was no click. The necessary support from above was lacking.

"He told me a thousand times that Xavi would not become his trainer either, because he lacked the experience. But he needed a shield, someone to hide behind.

"You won't see me in the Camp Nou for a while, I can't do that yet. Not with this chairman. I can't pretend nothing happened.

"The time the new trainer was given was not given to me. I still find that painful. I was dealing with all those injuries, now Pedri is fit again, and Dembele. [Xavi] had the same problem as me in the beginning: many injured players.

"Every trainer needs time and patience from the leadership. Xavi got that, and reinforcements. He has gained three attackers [Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang], I would have liked that too.

"But I'm happy for the club, that things are going better now, and for the players."

 

Meanwhile, the Dutchman also admitted he was confused to see Laporta give the green light to the big-money signing of Torres in January, mere months after the club's financial crisis led to Messi's departure.  

"It was at the insistence of the club management that I agreed to the departure of some players," Koeman stressed. "In order to get the finances in order.

"But when you then see that they attract someone for 55million [the fee paid to Manchester City for Torres] shortly after they let Messi go, you wonder if there wasn't more going on.

"Why did Messi have to leave?"

The arrivals of Xavi and a host of new attackers have had a major impact on the Catalan club, and Barcelona go into Sunday's trip to Elche unbeaten in 10 LaLiga matches (six wins and four draws). 

This marks their longest unbeaten run in the competition since April 2021 (19 games), and the second longest current run in the competition (Sevilla are unbeaten in 12).

The Blaugrana are currently battling a host of clubs, including Atletico Madrid, Real Betis, and Real Sociedad, for Champions League qualification, sitting fourth in LaLiga with 13 games remaining.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi is upset to see Barcelona struggle in his absence and has reiterated he would love to one day return to the club.

Messi's trophy-laden two-decade association with Barcelona came to an end in August when he joined PSG on a free transfer.

He scored a club-record 672 goals for Barca across 778 appearances, but the Catalan giants were unable to honour a contract offered to the player, due to financial restrictions.

The Argentina international's shock exit has left a huge void at Camp Nou, with Barca winning just seven of their 17 matches in all competitions this campaign.

Barca are seventh in LaLiga and have a crucial tie with Benfica on Tuesday as they aim to keep their Champions League last-16 hopes in their own hands.

Asked if his former club's form this season makes him sad, Messi said: "Yes, obviously. I always want the best for Barcelona. I'm a fan even though I'm not playing there now. 

"And I have colleagues and friends there within the team. I want them to do well. It is true that in LaLiga they've dropped many points, but there is still a lot more to play for. I have no doubt that Barcelona will get themselves back up the table."

Messi, who spent 17 seasons in Barca's first team, revealed earlier this month he is open to returning to the LaLiga club in the future in a technical secretary position.

In a wide-ranging interview published by Marca on Tuesday, Messi gave further insight into his recent departure and his future plans.

"I always said that at some point I will return to Barcelona because it is my home and because I am going to live there," he said. "And obviously if I can contribute and help the club I would love to come back.

"My exit is done. I left there and time has passed. What they told me is that they couldn't renew my contract and that I couldn't stay. You don't have to look for more culprits or look back at what happened. I'll stick with what they told me and that's it."

Barca's terrible start to their first season without Messi since 2003-04 led to the sacking of head coach Ronald Koeman in October and the subsequent appointment of Xavi.

Koeman left with a record of 28 wins from his 48 league matches in charge, but Messi believes the Dutchman was treated harshly, saying such dismissals are always "unfair" to coaches.

"When there are bad results, the easiest thing is to target the coach, to replace him and not the players," Messi said.

Messi has made a mixed start to the new chapter in his career with PSG, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner scoring four goals in nine appearances in all competitions.

He netted his first Ligue 1 goal in his sixth outing in the competition last weekend and now feels his "adaption has been pretty fast".

Messi has joined a star-studded cast at PSG that also includes Kylian Mbappe and former Barca team-mate Neymar.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the trio each rank in the top seven for goal involvements in all competitions among players from clubs in Europe's top five leagues.

Messi leads the way with a combined 377 goals and assists, with Mbappe fifth on 246 goal involvements and Neymar seventh with 231.

Despite boasting arguably the strongest attack on the continent, Messi does not believe PSG can consider themselves as firm favourites to win the Champions League.

"Everyone says that we are the big favourites and I will not deny that we are one of the candidates by name, but we still need things to become a really strong team," he said.

"We have to finish consolidating as a team and we have the advantage of having very great players to achieve it.  But we are not the only ones, there are other great teams that are candidates."

Xavi said he "really wants to go home", with Barcelona in talks with Al Sadd to make him their new head coach.

Barca's first vice-president Rafael Yuste and director of football Mateu Alemany were in attendance for Al Sadd's 3-3 draw with Al Duhail on Wednesday, a result that kept Xavi's side three points clear at the top of the Stars League. 

The former midfielder, who made 767 appearances for Barca as a player and won 25 trophies during an illustrious spell for the club, has been the frontrunner to take over following the dismissal of Ronald Koeman last week. 

Al Sadd last week insisted Xavi was solely focused on the Qatari club, with whom he has a two-year contract, but the coach confirmed an agreement on his future could be reached in a matter of hours. 

"I really want to go home. The two clubs are in talks and a resolution must be reached. I am very excited, but it's a matter of respect – I have a contract," Xavi told Mundo Deportivo. 

"It would be a return home. The two clubs have to agree. Hopefully it will be done, because I am very eager and excited. 

"I am very positive. I have been very clear about my position. I think it will be a matter of hours, maybe days. They know my stance and hopefully it can be done." 

He added to TV3: "I am a positive person and it is a matter of common sense. They have to agree. The two clubs know my position and I hope it will be sorted soon." 

After a 1-1 draw with Deportivo Alaves in their first game since Koeman's dismissal, Barca boosted their qualification hopes in the Champions League by beating Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday. 

Speaking more generally about what Koeman's successor needs to do at Camp Nou, Xavi added: "The coach who goes does not have to be a messiah. We saw a different Barca yesterday. 

"Everyone has to row in the same direction for Barca to win games. We are all very excited. We will see if it ends up being done, but it would be spectacular." 

Gaizka Mendieta believes Barcelona should have sacked Ronald Koeman earlier to prevent "negative dynamics" from developing at Camp Nou.

Barca parted company with Koeman on Wednesday following a 1-0 LaLiga defeat to Rayo Vallecano, on the back of a home Clasico loss against Real Madrid.

Koeman replaced Quique Setien in August 2020 but has failed to make an impact as he battled with Barca's dire financial situation, which led to Lionel Messi departing for Paris Saint-Germain.

The Blaugrana were ninth in the table ahead of a clash with Alaves on Saturday and have lost two of their three Champions League Group E matches.

Sergi Barjuan has stepped in as caretaker head coach and club legend Xavi is expected to be named as Koeman's successor on a permanent basis.

Former Spain midfielder Mendieta thinks the writing was on the wall for Koeman long ago and feels president Joan Laporta would have fired the former Netherlands defender sooner if the club were not so short of funds.

"I think finances are only of the reasons [why he was not sacked earlier]. Although, like we see now, if it has to come to that they will do anyway," he told Stats Perform.

"So the question is, why they didn't do it earlier? Because Laporta said he was not the man that he wanted for his project, he couldn't find anyone else so he stayed.

"That already started some negative dynamics in the club and in the team. So why don't do it in the first place I think financially was one of the big reasons for them not to do it.

"And then again, you start to generate some sort of bad atmosphere within the team, the club and the fans which is no good for anyone."

 

Mendieta has sympathy for Koeman given the off-field issues he had to contend with.

He added: "When you plan having a season as a manager with Messi on the team, and Messi leaves days before they start the season, then publicly the president or the board says that Koeman is not the manager they would like to have, but because they haven't got any option he stays.

"Then we see these three pillars of the club having different conversations like the board, the managers and the players in kind of everyone trying to save in a way themselves, which is not good for our team, for our club, in any situation.

"And then resources don't arrive, players injured. So there's a lot of ingredients in this kind of difficult situation. However, I still think there's a lot of potential in the team. There have been other players, key players, injured, and they're slowly coming back, hopefully, but they will need time.

"So it's a matter of time of where resources arrive and there's some sort of consistency in the results and the points, because at the moment they win one game, they look like they are in recovery, then they lose the next one, and crisis again."

Al Sadd have addressed rumours linking manager Xavi with the vacant head coach role at Barcelona by reiterating the former Spain international remains tied to a two-year contract.

Ronald Koeman was sacked by Barcelona after the club's dismal start to the 2021-22 campaign continued with a shock defeat to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.

That left them ninth in LaLiga and six points off the top – that gap has since been stretched to nine.

Sergi Barjuan was placed in temporary charge until a permanent successor to Koeman is found, and Blaugrana great Xavi is the hot favourite.

The 41-year-old has long been seen as a potential future head coach at Barca, and he is even reported to have turned down two approaches in the past: before Quique Setien was hired to replace Ernesto Valverde, and earlier this year when Joan Laporta reclaimed the presidency.

Laporta addressed the media beside Sergi on Friday and did little to cool speculation as he spoke of his surety that Xavi will one day coach Barcelona – though the president did at least follow that with the caveat of not knowing when that would be.

But while it seems inevitable that Barca will approach Xavi once again in the coming days, Al Sadd have at least attempted to calm the situation from their own perspective.

A statement posted to Twitter read: "In response to what's circulating recently, the Al Sadd management reaffirms that Xavi has a two-year contract with the club and is fully focused on the team's upcoming matches, to maintain our lead at the top of the league and to defend the title."

Xavi came through the ranks at Barca and went on to make 767 appearances for the club during one of their most illustrious periods.

He left for Al Sadd in 2014 and finished his playing career there, before taking over as coach and leading them to seven domestic trophies.

Barca face Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou on Saturday and are away to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League three days later.

Sergi Barjuan has urged Barcelona's players to add greater substance to their style as the stop-gap head coach pointed the way forward in the post-Ronald Koeman era.

The clash with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday may prove to be Sergi's only game as boss of the first team, with Barcelona eager to bring Xavi to the club.

Sergi's regular role is as coach to Barcelona B, and he has had precious little time with the senior stars since Koeman was dismissed on Wednesday, after a 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano .

Barcelona head into the weekend in a lowly ninth position, nine points behind leaders Real Sociedad, albeit with one game in hand.

They have played the same number of games as Real Madrid, who sit six points clear of Barcelona and already have a Clasico win in the bag this season.

Sergi believes Barcelona can get back on track and said in a news conference on Friday: "We have to be united, people have to come to the ground tomorrow.

"The way of playing will not change, but maybe some tactical concepts could provide the solution. The style is non-negotiable."

He added: "Tomorrow we have to win the game because LaLiga is open. We have to recover the idea of ​​vertical football."

Former Barcelona and Spain defender Sergi will be without Ansu Fati for the game due to the teenager's knee injury, but Ousmane Dembele could be involved for the first time this season, with the winger back in training after his own knee lay-off.

Sergi said: "I want to put some joy back into the team and get them enjoying their football again. I need all the players to be plugged into turning this situation around."

 

Playing a vertical game, which would mean being more direct, would seem an obvious move given the personnel available to Barcelona.

Feeding the ball as early as possible to the experienced and capable likes of Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero may be the smartest option for a team who have struggled to find an identity since Lionel Messi's move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barcelona have played fewer long passes (449) than any team in LaLiga this season, according to Opta data, but they have played the most possessional passes (6,364), as well as the most passes in the opposition's half (3,431).

Clearly, they are struggling to find a winning formula with their keep-ball game. This has not been helped by their finishing, with just 15 goals scored from an expected goals (xG) total of 18.7.

While Barcelona have lost their last two LaLiga games, to Real Madrid and Rayo, Alaves have picked themselves up after taking just three points from their opening eight matches and have beaten Cadiz and Elche back to back.

Barcelona have not lost any of their last 20 games at home to Basque opponents in LaLiga (W18 D2) since their 2-1 loss against Alaves in September 2016.

Alaves have kept only one clean sheet across their 16 away games against Barcelona in LaLiga, conceding 53 goals across those games. The shutout came in a shock 1-0 win in February 2000.

Sergi said of his opportunity to lead the Barcelona first team: "First of all, I would like to thank the club for the trust they have placed in me. Secondly, I want to send a big hug to Koeman because we have worked side by side these months.

"I arrive in a complex situation, but we are already working. We will have to look for the opponent's weaknesses and try to break their streak with our game."

Joan Laporta is adamant Xavi will be Barcelona head coach one day but refused to reveal if he will replace Ronald Koeman in the dugout this season.

Koeman was relieved of his duties on Wednesday after a poor start to the season that has left Barca ninth in LaLiga and with just three points from three Champions League games. Barca B boss Sergi Barjuan has taken temporary charge.

Club legend and Al Sadd manager Xavi has emerged as the front-runner for the permanent position, but Barca president Laporta – while praising the 41-year-old – maintained he is keeping his options open.

Xavi guided Al Sadd to the Qatar Stars League title last season and has claimed six cups since taking over in 2019, having spent four years at the club as a player.

"I have always said that Xavi will coach Barca one day," Laporta said ahead of Barca's contest with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday. "He is a person who lives for football, he belongs to Barca and has it as a priority objective in his life.

"What I think is that I have a very good relationship with him and we'll see how everything evolves. I have been talking to Xavi since the election campaign and contact has never been broken. 

"I have not changed my opinion about Xavi. Since he went to Qatar, I said he would be a Barca coach. What I don't know is when. The reports we have are very good.

"I have not followed Al Sadd. All the inputs that come to us are positive. He has recently taken the step of being a coach and does not have a long career. As much as we talk about Xavi, let me keep my [options open]."

Laporta also acknowledged the club should have dismissed Koeman sooner and accepts responsibility for the delay in the decision being made.

"[Giving Koeman time] was a way to motivate the coach and the team," Laporta continued. "Possibly we should have decided earlier, and I take responsibility for this decision. The situation was untenable. We had entered a dangerous drift in which we could disengage from everything.

"Ronald is a legend of Barcelona and we had to thank him for the effort he made. I told Ronald that, good luck and thank you very much. Possibly I had to make the decision before, but I opted for this decision."

The Barca president insisted that whoever is brought in as the new head coach will be backed by the board but will also be expected to deliver success within a short period of time.

"[The new head coach] will have the full support of the board that I preside over and the football management," Laporta added. "We will see how he evolves. He will have all our support and all our demands because we aspire to win the competitions we are in.

"At Barca, there are no transitional seasons. Everything is possible in football."

Xavi insists he is focused on his work with Al Sadd amid reports he is set to take over as the new head coach of Barcelona. 

Barca sacked Ronald Koeman on Wednesday following a 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano that left them six points off top spot in LaLiga. 

It was the Catalan giants' first defeat to Rayo since December 2002 and ended a run of 13 straight LaLiga victories against them. 

Sergi Barjuan has been placed in temporary charge, with Xavi expected to be allowed to leave Al Sadd next week following their clash with Qatar Stars League title rivals Al Duhail. 

Asked about the possibility of an impending return to Camp Nou on Thursday, Xavi said: "I am focused on my work with Al Sadd and I won't talk about anything else."

Xavi came through the ranks at Barca and went on to provide 184 assists and score 85 times in 767 appearances for the club during one of their most illustrious periods. 

He left for Al Sadd in 2014 and finished his playing career there, before taking over as coach and leading them to seven domestic trophies.

Barca face Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou on Saturday and are away to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League three days later.

Pedri has thanked Ronald Koeman for giving him his breakthrough at Camp Nou and says he "will always be grateful" to the former Barcelona head coach.

Barca confirmed the departure of Koeman on Wednesday shortly after a 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano that leaves them ninth in LaLiga with 10 games played.

The Dutchman lasted just 14 months in the job after replacing Quique Setien in August 2020, during which time he won just 58.21 per cent of his 67 games in charge. 

Koeman had more success when it came to nurturing young players into the first-team fold, though, with Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza and Pedri breaking through last season.

And with Barca's financial issues well-documented, Koeman made further use of the academy this term by giving Alejandro Balde, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez and Yusuf Demir chances.

None of those players have had as big an impact as Pedri, who made the fourth-most appearances under Koeman (56 games), despite this season's injury issues.

Pedri's form last season saw him rewarded with a call-up to the Spain squad ahead of Euro 2020, where he started all six of his country's matches in their run to the semi-finals.

After a memorable 12 months for club and country, the 18-year-old has personally thanked Koeman for giving him a chance to shine.

"I'm sorry things didn't turn out the way we wanted, mister," he posted on his personal Instagram account on Thursday. 

"I will always be grateful to him for everything he has done for me: for giving me his trust from the first moment and for the opportunity to fulfil my dream at Barcelona.

"I wish you the best both personally and professionally."

 

Sergio Busquets was the most used played during Koeman's tenure, featuring 63 times in total – one more than Frenkie de Jong – with 56 of those being starts.

The experienced midfielder also paid tribute to his departing boss on social media on Thursday, posting: "Thanks for everything, mister. Good luck in the future."

Koeman's win percentage is the lowest of all coaches to have taken charge of Barca since Pep Guardiola left in 2012, the next lowest being Setien (64 per cent).

The 58-year-old is also the only Barca boss to average fewer than two points per game in LaLiga (1.96 PPG), again comfortably behind the next worst in Setien (2.21 PPG).

Barca announced on Thursday that Sergi Barjuan will take interim charge while a permanent successor for Koeman – expected to be club great Xavi – is found.

Barcelona have named Sergi Barjuan as their interim head coach while they search for a permanent successor to Ronald Koeman.

The Catalan giants sacked Koeman on Wednesday following a 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano that leaves them ninth in LaLiga with 10 matches played.

Koeman lasted just 14 months in the job after replacing Quique Setien in August 2020 and departs Camp Nou with a 58.21 win percentage across his 67 games in charge.

Widespread reports from Spain suggest legendary Barcelona midfielder Xavi, who is in charge of Qatari side Al Sadd, is being lined up to replace the former Netherlands boss as early as next week.

Talks between the two parties are said to be ongoing, but Barca have moved to place Sergi in charge for the time being.

The former left-back, who has spent the past four months at the helm of Barcelona's B side, will be introduced to the first-team squad ahead of Thursday's training session.

He has also previously managed Zhejiang Greentown, Real Mallorca, Almeria and Recreativo following a 15-year playing career that saw him spend nine seasons at Camp Nou.

The LaLiga side confirmed the news on their official website, with Sergi set to speak to the media for the first time on Friday ahead of this weekend's visit of Deportivo Alaves.

Barca then have a crucial Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev before travelling to Celta Vigo in their final league game before the international break.

Ronald Koeman's 14-month spell in charge of Barcelona came to an end on Wednesday following another humbling defeat.

Barca fell 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano, fresh on the back of losing to fierce rivals Real Madrid, and find themselves ninth in LaLiga with 10 games played. 

The Dutchman departs Camp Nou with a win percentage of 58.21 across a 67-game tenure that provided more negatives than positives.

Here, Stats Perform picks out a few of the highs and lows from Koeman's reign, which coincided with the most difficult off-field period in the club's history.

MESSI'S DEPARTURE

When looking backing on Koeman's time at Barcelona in years to come, it will be best remembered as the period in which the Blaugrana were having to adapt to life without all-time leading goalscorer Lionel Messi.

Years of financial mismanagement predating Koeman's arrival in August 2020 meant Barca were unable to tie Messi down to a new deal and he left for Paris Saint-Germain shortly before the start of the 2021-22 campaign.

Sergio Aguero arrived but it was always going to take considerable time to replace a player that had scored 672 goals and provided 265 assists across 778 games. So it proved, with Barca's goalscoring problems laid bare this term.

CLASSICO WOES

While the loss to Rayo proved to be the final straw for Koeman, there had been growing talk that he would be on his way out regardless following Sunday's 2-1 Clasico defeat to Madrid.

Barca simply failed to turn up against their biggest rivals – and not for the first time given it was their fourth successive loss to Madrid in all competitions, making it their worst such run in the fixture since 1965.

Koeman is only the second manager in LaLiga history to lose his first three Clasicos, after Patrick O'Connell between 1935 and 1940, and that latest loss was not taken well by Barca supporters. The former Netherlands boss had his car mobbed by a crowd of disgruntled fans as he attempted to depart Camp Nou.

EUROPEAN HUMBLINGS

Barca's on-field struggles were not limited to LaLiga, either, as they made a historically bad start to this season's Champions League campaign with 3-0 defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica.

Never before had they lost their opening two games in the competition and, while they did just about recover with a 1-0 win over Dynamo Kiev last time out, whoever succeeds Koeman still has plenty of work on their hands to advance from the group.

Indeed, before that win over Dynamo, Barca had lost four and drawn one of their last five games in the Champions League, having also lost to Juventus in the final game of their group campaign last term before losing to PSG over two legs in the last 16.

COPA TRIUMPH EASES PAIN 

Exiting the Champions League in the first knockout round last season was one of a number of disappointments for Barca in their only full season under Koeman.

Barca finished the LaLiga season in third, seven points behind champions Atletico Madrid, and also lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana in dramatic circumstances.

But Koeman did win one trophy at Camp Nou thanks to success in the 2020-21 Copa del Rey. After overturning a two-goal first-leg deficit against Sevilla in the semi-finals, Barca exacted revenge on Bilbao in the final with a 4-0 win.

That made ex-Valencia head coach Koeman the second manager after Luis Enrique to win his first two Copa del Rey finals this century.

 

A NEW DAWN

Koeman will rightly point out that he had to operate with one hand tied behind his back due to Barca's financial difficulties, with Antoine Griezmann following Messi out of the door in the most recent transfer window.

Barcelona's squad became substantially weaker as a result, though it did at least present a chance to bring in some new blood. Koeman has brought the average age of the side down to 25.5, ranking Barca as the third-youngest team in LaLiga this season.

Ansu Fati's development may have been stunted by knee injury issues, which again kept him out of the Rayo loss, but the club's new number 10 has been given a firm footing to potentially succeed all-time great Messi as the face of Barca going forward.

Pedri and Gavi have also made a big impact under Koeman, the latter overtaking his team-mate to become the youngest player to start an El Clasico this century last weekend at the age of 17 years and 80 days. 

It will be those players, and not Koeman, who will attempt to return the club to former glories.

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