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Barcelona exploring Ronald Koeman replacements; want successor in place first

Barcelona are exploring replacements for Ronald Koeman but president Joan Laporta doesn’t want to sack the Dutch coach without having a successor in place, multiple sources have told ESPN.

Barca had the destiny of the La Liga title in their own hands before facing Granada on April 29 but one win in five games has seen them lose ground on Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid with one game to go.

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Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou against Celta Vigo officially ended the Catalan club’s hopes of winning the league and increased the doubts surrounding Koeman’s future.

However, Koeman, who led Barca to Copa del Rey success earlier this season, still has one year left on his contract and sources at the club told ESPN he could still fulfil his deal if none of the alternatives convince.

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The same sources told ESPN that Barca are keen to avoid a repeat of what happened after Ernesto Valverde was sacked in 2020 without a substitute lined up.

Quique Setien ended up replacing Valverde after the Blaugrana failed to persuade Koeman, Xavi Hernandez, Mauricio Pochettino or Erik ten Hag to take on the job.

Even prior to last week’s draw with Levante, which preceded the Celta loss, ESPN revealed that there were increasing concerns among the board about Koeman’s ability to lead the club in the long-term.

In addition to wanting to find a replacement before acting, with the club’s gross debt standing at almost €1.2 billion, Laporta must also consider the financial consequences of firing Koeman with time to run on his contract.

A source close to Koeman, meanwhile, has told ESPN that the coach believes Barca’s recent run will lead to his departure this summer, less than a year after he replaced Setien.

Following the Celta game, Koeman said questions about his future were “not for me to answer” but on Saturday he had expressed a desire to remain in the role beyond the summer.

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ESPN reported last week that Laporta recently sounded out outgoing Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, only to be told that he has agreed to replace Joachim Low as the Germany coach after this year’s European Championship.

Laporta is a fan of the German school of managers and has been impressed by the coaching developments in the Bundesliga and the success of the likes of Flick, Julian Nagelsmann and Jurgen Klopp.

He sounded out Bayern-bound Nagelsmann during the election campaign to become Barca president earlier this year and also approached Ralf Rangnick with a view to offering him the sporting director position.

Xavi, who arrived back in Barcelona on Monday following the end of the season in Qatar, where he is the coach of Al-Sadd, is the most logical option.

Various sources have told ESPN that several directors feel it’s not the right moment for the former midfielder to return to the club but nothing is being ruled out.

A source close to Xavi told ESPN he is in no rush to take on the top job at Camp Nou given that the idea has also been to return to the club in favourable conditions.

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Xavi was closely linked to Victor Font, who came second in the election to Laporta, and under Font he would have been given a role that incorporated a lot of power in terms of decision-making at all levels of the club, something that is not as likely under Laporta from the off.

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