GOING, GOING, RON
In recent months, Ronald Koeman hasn’t so much resembled a dead man walking as one scurrying around booking his own plot at the cemetery, ordering some tasteful wreaths from the florist and chiselling his own epitaph on a headstone before climbing Dracula-style into his own coffin, getting comfortable and sliding the lid shut.
With Barcelona deep in a financial meltdown that was none of his doing, the Dutch manager was already working with both arms tied behind his back and his ankles hobbled. Koeman probably got an idea the jig was up when the club president, Joan Laporta, made it clear last summer that he was only still in the job because they couldn’t find anyone else to do it. Despite having since given the coach his decidedly unconvincing public backing on at least two occasions, Laporta finally pulled the trigger last night. Following back-to-back La Liga defeats at the hands of Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona’s president finally decided to send the Dutchman through the Door Marked Do One – even if it meant paying him €13m large that they don’t have.
So what now for this Catalan institution that has been reduced to the status of financial basket case, is on the verge of going out of Big Cup at the group stage and currently doesn’t look to have a snowball’s chance in hell of even qualifying for it next time around? The word on the piazza from the Fiver’s remarkably well informed urbane, sophisticated, hand-stitched-loafer-wearing Italian cousin In The Know Cinquer is that club legend Xavi Hernández has accepted an offer to take over at the Camp Nou, despite initial reluctance on Laporta’s part to give the former Barça midfield superstar the job.
Xavi’s appointment will not be rubber-stamped until he agrees the termination of his contract with Qatari club Al-Sadd, where he has been cutting his managerial teeth. Replacing one club playing legend with another who has far less coaching experience, at arguably the most critical point in the club’s history, may not seem anything like the best option for Barcelona right now. But they have got themselves into such an almighty mess, it’s the only one they’ve got.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We play in the best league in the world and it is a privilege. If we don’t want that, let’s ring up West Brom and see if they want another go, and we will p1ss off back there and play Peterborough” – Stuart Webber, the Norwich sporting director, gets his strident chat on with Nick Ames.
Koeman, the Coca-Cola Cup, scorpion kicks and herbal footballers – it’s all in Football Weekly Extra, available over here.
“Re: this week’s Knowledge on outfield players wearing goalkeeper’s kits. While I’m puzzled at how there could be a minimum of 10 keeper kits on hand, I got to thinking that Manchester United might do better fielding 10 goalkeepers. They could dispense with a midfield, a practice they appear to have already adopted. Ronaldo, the lone outfield player, could carry on playing in the way he likes best – all by himself. And the rest of them have to be better with their hands than their feet” – Hanford Woods.
“Can I be the first of the predictable 1,057 to predict Nuno Espírito Santo’s team-talk at 5pm this Saturday? ‘Lads, it’s United’” – Justin Kavanagh (and no others).
“Re: Big Paper’s quiz on unexpected international call-ups. I didn’t do particularly well but the last question was rather easy, as I was actually standing behind the answer [No spoilers please – Fiver Ed] on the pitch in Basel, holding a Uefa anti-racism banner (how is that going, by the way?). All I remember is he had a lot of tattoos” – Mark Bennett.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Mark Bennett, who wins a copy of John Nicholson’s excellent Was Football Better in the Old Days?
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
David Henderson, the businessman who organised the flight that crashed, killing the footballer Emiliano Sala, has been found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
The head coach of the Jamaica women’s national team, Hubert Busby Jr, has been accused by a former player of attempting to solicit sex from her during a recruiting process when he was in charge of the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team.
Marcus Rashford said he has stayed away from Social Media Disgraces in recent days because he was embarrassed by Manchester United’s 5-0 shellacking by Liverpool. “I am embarrassed,” he sighed. “Our fans are everything and you didn’t deserve that.”
Joey Barton latest: the Bristol Rovers manager has apologised for comparing his players’ poor performances to the Holocaust. “For me, it was a poor analogy to use,” Barton said, in a rare moment of understatement. “It won’t happen again.”
Brighton manager Graham Potter admits he is unsure how to deal with Mohamed Salah as his team travel to Anfield. “At the moment he’s not world class, he out-of-this-world class!” Potter hooted, while fiddling with various makeshift contraptions in the Wile E. Coyote style.
Watford’s Claudio Ranieri has told his players the 5-2 win at Everton is dilly-ding, dilly-gone. “We must forget what happened,” Ranieri beamed. “We must continue this way, and now there will be a very difficult match [against Southampton].”
Fitba roundup: Scott Brown scored at Ibrox for Aberdeen as they got a draw.
Euro roundup: defeats for both Bayern and Juventus, in what can only be described as a disaster for Weird Uncle Fiver’s accumulator.
STILL WANT MORE?
Big Ronnie K’s sacking finally ends a marriage of convenience: Sid Lowe’s take on Barcelona’s soap opera.
Tottenham are a hard watch and Nuno Espírito Santo’s tactics are doing them no favours, writes Karen Carney.
The migrant workers who built Qatar’s World Cup dream deserve some of David Beckham’s hefty pay packet, writes Pete Patisson.
Nicky Bandini on Sassuolo’s first ever away win at Juve, with their new coach Alessio Dionisi outsmarting one of his footballing idols.
Oh I say! Barry Davies brilliance and more forgotten goals in this week’s Classic YouTube roundup.
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