BARCELONA – All or nothing. In the absence of football, game and results, Ronald Koeman can only guess one way out of survival at Barcelona: betting on youth. But do it in a decisive and non-negotiable way. He started it a year ago with Pedri, with Mingueza and Ilaix … And he seems to be on his way now with Nico, with Gavi, Demir or Balde. But now he is at the critical moment, in the moment of truth. It is claimed that this bet is not half measures, to give minutes, but to make them protagonists at all risk. And whoever falls.
A good part of Barcelona no longer believes in coach Koeman and it is suspected that he will only forgive him and return the lost support if he is able to repeat at the Camp Nou the revolution that one day carried out in Valencia. Break with the past and win the future. And although in that future, perhaps, it will no longer be he who leads the team, go down in history as the coach who ushered in a new era.
Johan Cruyff, in 1988, arrived in Barcelona in full swing. It was the last umbrella of the then president Núñez and after finding a very, very remodeled staff, the first thing he did was to put two sacred cows of the time against the wall, such as Carrasco and Julio Alberto. As soon as he could, he invoiced them … Six years later, in 1994 and after linking four league titles (and his team being devastated by AC Milan in the Champions League final) he reached into the locker room: he charged with a stroke of the pen to Zubizarreta, Julio Salinas, Goikoetxea, Laudrup and Juan Carlos, several of them transcendental footballers to understand the Dream Team.
Cruyff understood the need to thoroughly regenerate a template that he agitated again in a beastly way after twelve months. Koeman, Stoichkov, Eusebio and Begiristain left (half a year after Romario’s flight). And Cruyff, who was not perfect but the smartest of all, went from pointing to the sacred cows in the locker room to ostracizing the middle class with whom he had regenerated the squad and who had not responded to the demand. And he bet, with as much impudence as suicide, by the quarry.
Out of nowhere, Iván de la Peña and Celades emerged. And Toni Velamazán, Roger, Quique or Moreno. And Busquets (Carlos), Carreras, Jordi, Òscar, Guardiola, Sergi or Amor were added to save the face of the team. And also from the club. The adventure ended badly because the cruelty of the scoreboard (all titles were aspired to the end and none were won) and the divorce between the coach and the president led to the dismissal of Johan and the change of guidelines from the offices … But it was the first time in the modern era that Barcelona showed the world that their academy was a luxury. A necessary luxury.
Ronald Koeman is not Johan Cruyff. In times of globality and immediacy, his legendary figure does not have, by far, the transcendence, much less the aura of who was his teacher. In terms of football, as a coach, he is also very far from that creed between suicidal and daring of Johan that Pep Guardiola followed at face value. But he is Dutch. And he has shown signs during his time as coach of his uninhibited commitment to youth … A circumstance that is most urgently ventured today at Barça.
Koeman is ugly by barcelonismo a bland football, a pragmatism destined to win from the conservatism that the fan rejects, and is barely sustained both by the difficulty of finding a substitute that does marry the idea and by the cost of a dismissal that would force to pay you more than 18 million dollars. And it only has one way out: revolutionize the team.
Van der Vaart, Mido, Maxwell, Sneijder, Stekelenburg or Chivu at Ajax; Manuel Fernandes at Benfica; David Silva, Mata or Éver Banega at Valencia; De Vrij, Martins Indi, Vilhena, Van Beek or Boëtius in the Feyenoord; Thomas Davies, Holgate or Calvert-Lewin can attest to the coach’s daring to play with the youth. In Valencia it is not forgotten, always for the worse, that he condemned three sacred cows of the importance of Cañizares, Albelda and Angulo … Less that he imposed a new youth and that thanks to his passage Albiol or Alexis also settled. And winning a Cup in the middle of the Valencian civil war.
Koeman has no other way out in the eyes of the public opinion than to take the final step. Take risks without a net with Balde and Gavi, with Nico and Demir, wait for Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembélé, give the stripes to De Jong, Frenkie, of course, and group them with the Mingueza, Pedri, Ronald Araújo, Eric García, Memphis Depay , Marc-Andre ter Stegen and, who knows, recover Riqui Puig so that the Barça of the future begins to show itself in the present.
That could be the best title to win for a club that, on the verge of economic collapse, needs to regenerate in a hurry. With the flag of Cruyffismo in a last bet as risky as, it is suspected, necessary and non-negotiable.