The Dutchman scored the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final, when Barcelona became champions of Europe for the first time, and now returns to the Camp Nou almost thirty years later as coach.
Barcelona have moved quickly to replace Quique Setien as coach, announcing the hiring of Ronald Koeman on a two-year contract. The 57-year-old Dutchman knows the club very, very well, having spent six years as a player at the Camp Nou between 1989-1995 – during which time he became an integral part of Johan Cruyff’s so-called ‘Dream Team’ – and having worked as an assistant coach under Louis van Gaal at the end of the 1990s after he’d hung up his boots.
For Barça fans, there is one clear Koeman moment that stands out: his freekick in extra time of the 1992 European Cup final, when the Blaugrana defeated Sampdoria at Wembley for their first ever triumph in the continental competition. Barcelona now have five European Cups to their name, but the first one was extra special. “It’s simply amazing to score the decisive goal in a European Cup final,” Koeman told the media in the aftermath of that win.
That wasn’t the only time Koeman won the European Cup during his successful playing career as a defender and also a midfielder, given that he also won it in 1987/88 with PSV Eindhoven. And it certainly wasn’t the only title that Koeman won during his spell at Barcelona, as he also celebrated four LaLiga titles, three Spanish Super Cups, one Copa del Rey and the UEFA Super Cup that followed the win over Sampdoria.
That Barça side coached by Johan Cruyff was the ‘Dream Team;’ now Koeman is tasked with recreating those happy memories and with building a ‘Dream Team’ of his own.
He has built up plenty of coaching experience since ending his playing career in 1997. After starting out as an assistant with the Netherlands and with Barcelona, he went on to manage four huge clubs in his homeland – Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and AZ –as well as Everton and Southampton in the Premier League, Valencia in LaLiga, the Dutch national team and others.
In fact, Koeman already has experience of winning a trophy as a coach in Spanish football. As Valencia coach in 2007/08, he led Los Che to the Copa del Rey title.
Koeman’s most recent role was in charge of his country’s national team and he’ll be able to work with one of Dutch football’s rising stars and a key man for Barça moving forward, Frenkie de Jong, who Koeman selected 15 times during their time together with the Oranje.
The tactician will also relish the chance to work with Lionel Messi and freekick practice at the Barça training ground could be especially interesting next season if the coach decides to take part. Messi holds Barcelona’s record for the most freekick goals, ahead of none other than Koeman in second place, surpassing the Dutchman’s 26 freekick goals back during the 2016/17 season. The Dutchman didn’t seem to have any hard feelings as he saw his record fall, even congratulating the player – who’ll now be his captain – on Twitter.
Koeman has already told Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu that he wants Messi to be the pillar of his Barça side. With the best player in the world leading the way, with rising stars such as de Jong in the centre and with Koeman on the sidelines, Barcelona hope they can compete for trophies once again in 2020/21.