BARCELONA

All roads lead Barcelona to Koeman as Valverde's heir

The successor to Ernesto Valverde in the Camp Nou dugout is being carefully planned with a view to a club legend taking over.

All roads lead Barcelona to Koeman as Valverde's heir
Rodolfo Molina DIARIO AS

Within the innner conversations at FC Barcelona it is assumed that this will be the final season for manager Ernesto Valverde. The Txingurri will see his contract expire in 2020 but has an option to continue until 2021, although the belief at the Camp Nou is that this will not be triggered. This has his successor needing to be lined up sooner rather than later.

Barcelona's Valverde succession plans

If the season ends successfully again (and by winning LaLiga he will become the only coach in the history of the club along with Guardiola to have won three in his first three years), Valverde will end a triumphant spell and be able to walk out the door with his head held high. If he was to add the Champions League crown, it would be significantly higher. A slump, however, and that could just mean second place and no other silverware, and he would no longer be helped to find that door, in what is Maria Bartomeu's final year before new elections.

Still the boss | Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.

Still the boss | Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.

All roads to his succession appear to lead Barça to Ronald Koeman. Although the 2020-21 season is likely to be a transition period due to the presidential elections, the Dutchman is willing to take a unique opportunity and lead the blaugrana forward. The Wembley hero and former coach of Valencia, Southampton and Everton, among others, has signed a series of release clauses with the Dutch Federation that would allow him to sign for the Catalan giants after the Euro 2020.

Koeman was already close to signing for Barça last season when Valverde's position was shaken by the 4-0 loss in Liverpool and the defeat to Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final. But he didn't arrive for two reasons. Firstly, he wanted to be with the Netherlands in their bid to lift the 2020 summer trophy, following up an impressive showing in the League of Nations. The other factor was that Bartomeu reflected on the season as a whole and decided to keep the faith with Valverde, the man who had won two consecutive league titles.

Strong hand | Romario, Laudrup, Stoichkov, Koeman, back in their Barça day.

Strong hand | Romario, Laudrup, Stoichkov, Koeman, back in their Barça day.

Koeman is the most logical option and the one that is expected to play out next summer. However, there are other names being discussed, the key to those targets being that they have a background in the club. One of those on the list is Mark van Bommel, who after years of training as an assistant to Van Marwijk in Saudi Arabia and Australia, started his career as top man with PSV last season, and with some success. There he replaced Cocu, another with a blaugrana past, who moved on to Fenerbahce and now finds himself at Derby County. Thiago Motta is another name that has been flirted with in Barcelona, but his move to Genoa is likely to rule him out of any final discussions.

Koeman's candidacy is clear. A respected name in Barcelona, with strong links with those at the club, hugely charismatic, and will always be a legend for the fans who remember that night at Wembley.