“It is what it is” bemoaned Ronald Koeman, after his Barcelona side had been comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Bayern Munich in mid-September. The German outfit had looked comfortable all game and had they stepped up a gear, the result and final score could have been much worse, while the Dutch head coach of the Spanish giants recognised that fact.
This isn’t the Barcelona of old or even of recent years, which still featured Lionel Messi until his departure to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer. This is a club mired in financial ruin that has also lost Antoine Griezmann, loaned to Atlético Madrid with an obligatory purchase clause. This is a team devoid of the same strength and enviable depth, which is also struggling with injuries.
When he uttered the now famous admission, Koeman faced the angst and ire of disgruntled supporters, although the fact remains that his words were an entirely frank and honest appraisal of the current situation. He is trying to do the best he can, with the now increasingly limited tools to get the job done.
If budgetary allowances are any indication of what can be expected, it will be a tall order for Barcelona to realistically compete for any silverware, given their current financial circumstances. Joan Laporta has had to juggle past debts and repayments, which meant the club has now fallen to seventh in LaLiga wage limits for the 2021-22 season, forced to work within an overall budget of €98 million during this campaign.
To put that into some context, ahead of the upcoming first El Clásico encounter of the season, Real Madrid have a budgetary allowance of €739 million for the 2021-22 campaign. Sevilla and Atlético Madrid both have roughly twice the spending power, while Villarreal and Real Sociedad have roughly a third more to work with financially. Even with their exclusive bias towards signing players from within the Basque Country, Athletic Club are also better off.
But this is Barcelona we’re talking about and, of course, fans are unwilling to accept second best insofar as results are concerned. Since the humbling against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, there was more misery for the Blaugrana team when they were easily defeated 3-0 at Benfica. This was immediately followed by a decisive 2-0 loss against Atlético Madrid, leaving Barcelona mid-table in LaLiga.
All the talk of disastrous form and woeful performances has raised questions about Koeman, as the Spanish press begin to circle like vultures, waiting to see if Barcelona will fire their under-pressure manager.
For now, club supremo Joan Laporta seems willing to bide his time, although that could also have something to do with cost implications. According to some reports, it would cost around €12 million to dismiss the Dutchman.
While sportsbooks predict that Koeman is likely to be sacked, the dichotomy of his current situation is interesting, as many also continue to price Barcelona as genuine contenders in the race to win LaLiga. Given that odds tend to vary, visiting Arabian Betting could be a good idea before wagering on the Spanish giants and their manager, given they have produced an extensive guide covering the best football betting sites.
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Of course, trust is apparently something Koeman appears to have in short supply, certainly amongst the Barcelona fanbase, considering what many regard as his lacklustre leadership of the team.
Nevertheless, there are some reasons to be positive looking ahead. Injuries have also hampered the efforts of Koeman and the team, therefore Ousmane Dembélé and Sergio Agüero returning to full fitness will inevitably be a huge boost. Both are on tract to be back in action towards the end of October, and they could even be available for the clash against Real Madrid.
Should they defy all the odds and win El Clásico in October, beating eternal rivals Real Madrid, that would be a huge boost for the fortunes of Barcelona and Koeman. His position at the helm would instantly be reinforced, although the opposite would also be true in the event of defeat.
Regardless of the costs, there would be increased pressure on Joan Laporta to make a managerial change, which is undoubtedly something he would probably prefer to avoid.