BARCELONA

Barcelona: Ronald Koeman wasn't Bartomeu's first choice

The president called Al-Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez before the Bayern game to try to convince him to take the Barça job this summer but his offer was turned down.

Barcelona: Ronald Koeman wasn't Bartomeu's first choice
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Ronald Koeman is almost certain to be appointed coach at FC Barcelona for the 2020-21 season, taking the reins from Quique Setién who was dismissed yesterday. But the Dutch coach was not the first option for the post. Similarly to what happened back in January, when Barça's sporting department decided to sack Ernesto Valverde, the first person Josep Maria Bartomeu had in mind as a replacement was Xavi Hernández.

The blaugrana president, aware that Setién's time at the club had come to an end, contacted Xavi before the Champions League quarter final against Bayern Munich, underlining the fact that nobody at the club could care less about Setién or apparently the team's chances of progressing in Europe.

It was Bartomeu who made the phone call to Xavi, as the relationship between the former Barça midfielder and Technical Secretary Eric Abidal soured after his visit to Doha in January and subsequent comments, in which he claimed no offer had been made for the Al-Sadd coach.

This time, the telephone conversation was brief - Bartomeu already knew the conditions which Xavi would demand to return to Barcelona. However, the situation had also radically changed since January. For a start, Xavi had since extended his contract with Al-Sadd by an extra year and had started designing the squad for the near future, convincing Santi Cazorla to move to the Qatari club.

Xavi with doubts about Barcelona post

And on top of that, Xavi continued to have his doubts that the current Barcelona board would be able to make his project work and that he would end up having to deal with constant stopgap solutions or even refusals. With all of that in mind, Xavi once again turned down Bartomeu's offer - even though this time, the president had made it clear that he was willing to accept the majority of the coach's demands and conditions.

Back in January, Xavi spent three days deliberating over Barcelona's offer - upon insistence from Abidal and CEO, Oscar Grau and after a personal phone call from Bartomeu, in one last bid to convince him. In August, talks lasted barely half and hour.

After being turned down once again by Xavi, Bartomeu waited for the Bayern game. The day after the humiliating defeat in Lisbon, according to journalist Lluis Canut, the president made a phone call to Ronald Koeman to offer him the coaching job. For a second time, the Dutch coach was Bartomeu's second choice, only this time, it looks like Koeman will accept.