Not Just Another Final: Koeman And Messi's Futures On The Line As Barcelona Eye Copa Glory - 9jaflaver



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Not Just Another Final: Koeman And Messi’s Futures On The Line As Barcelona Eye Copa Glory




While Barca have made improvements in recent times, their failures in big games could spell the end for their coach and see their captain opt to leave 

A week has now passed since Barcelona’s crushing defeat in El Clasico, but there is no more time to mope for the Blaugrana.

Saturday will see them take on Athletic Club in the final of the Copa del Rey, in a match that feels like it has far more than just a trophy resting on it.

The result could well prove transcendental to the club’s future.

Should Barca fail to perform at La Cartuja in Seville, it will likely spell the beginning of the end for coach Ronald Koeman, and may even be the straw that breaks the camel’s (or should that be GOAT’s?) back for Lionel Messi too.

Messi can leave Camp Nou at the end of the season for free if he so desires, and despite new president Joan Laporta’s overtures, he has not yet made up his mind over his next step.

Winning a trophy – even one that ranked third on the priority list at the start of the season – would at least suggest there is forward momentum at the club.

Barcelona have struggled in almost every big game they have faced this season under the former Netherlands coach. K

oeman was left reeling last weekend from a second Clasico defeat of the campaign, while his team also lost against Atletico Madrid in La Liga, with the return fixture to come in May.

They were thrashed 4-1 at Camp Nou by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16,ensuring their quick exit and the end of Messi’s European dream, again.

That tie came about despite a 2-0 group stage win over Juventus in Turin, with Koeman’s side suffering a 3-0 reverse at home against the Bianconeri, condemning them to second place in the group and setting up their date with Mbappe, Neymar and co.

They also tumbled in the Spanish Super Cup final against Athletic in January, 3-2 after extra-time, and were beaten 2-0 by Sevilla in the Copa semi-final first leg.

The exception to the rule was the second-leg victory over Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla, 3-0 at Camp Nou, in the midst of a fine run of form, with confidence high and wind in Barca’s sails.

“I don’t know if we’ll win [the Copa],” a worried Jordi Alba said to Gerard Pique after the Clasico defeat, according to Deportes Cuatro. “Relax, we’ll win it,” Pique replied, but Alba remained unsure.

Saturday’s final is a perfect moment for Koeman to end this insecurity, put these results behind him and start to prove to president Laporta that he has what it takes to helm a club thirsty for silverware.

It has been a long 23 months since Barcelona lifted a trophy, the 2018-19 Liga title with Ernesto Valverde in the dugout.

If Barcelona lose against Athletic, it will likely pull the rug out from under their league charge too, cementing the damage done by Real Madrid last weekend by quashing what remains of their morale and momentum.

Should Koeman not leave Andalusia with the King’s cup in his hands, the defining image of his reign may be his post-Clasico histrionics: walking off with an umbrella in the rain like an irate holidaymaker, after taking umbrage at a pitch-side interview.

Laporta arrived as president weighing up his options to replace Koeman at the end of the season, including club legend Xavi Hernandez, even if publicly he offered the Dutchman support.

This is a chance to show the new chief that he deserves to stay in the role, not just as an expendable transition man, but someone who can shape the Barcelona of the future. Koeman has to make it look like a foolish decision to sack him at the end of the season.

And if Barcelona cannot beat a side with one win in their last nine matches, what hope is there of keeping Messi?

The Argentine wants a top-level project for his final years among the elite, and despite Barcelona’s financial problems, he will wait to hear Laporta’s proposal.

Adding a top striker like Erling Haaland to the squad, however, might not be enough to convince Messi if he does not believe the base beneath the frontline is solid enough to make a charge for the Champions League next season.

“For a while he’s seen us growing and that there is a future,” said Koeman of Messi. But that future has to arrive quickly, and there is no time like the present.

The cup final does present a chance for Barca’s youngsters to taste their first senior success. Pedri, Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo, as the likes of Frenkie de Jong, are trophyless at Barcelona, while Ousmane Dembele, who has honours to his name, is yet to lift a piece of silverware that he truly feels he played a part in winning.

It will also show the next wave of youngsters coming through La Masia that Barcelona is not a sinking ship to jump off when lucrative Premier League offers appear, but a side ready to start a new glorious cycle, from the embers of the last.

Barcelona, record 30-time Copa winners, are not just playing for another notch on the belt.

There is more at stake than it seems.

source:- goal



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