Ronald Koeman’s tenure at Barcelona started and ended largely in the same way: with the team sitting in mid-table. During the way, though, fans were treated to good football several times.
Those spells of excitement were headlined by the usual suspects – Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and most recently, Gavi.
The Spaniard, as highly talented as he is, was close to playing second fiddle to none other than Georginio Wijnaldum.
Ronald Koeman wanted to sign the player in the summer of 2021, but he moved to PSG for what were presumed to be financial reasons.
The Dutch coach has opened up about the failed move, speaking to AD.nl:
“I tried to sign Wijnaldum for Barça but I failed because the President wanted to annoy me more than bringing in a player… That delayed the operation and for that reason, he opted for PSG. Otherwise, he would have played for Barcelona.”
Barcelona did not have an awful lot of highly-rated midfielders at the start of last season. With the departure of Miralem Pjanic (loan), Carles Alena, and Ilaix Moriba, it was not surprising to see Koeman demand another midfielder.
He was also on poor terms with Riqui Puig, who was demoted to the bench since Quique Setien’s sacking.
Koeman then chose to promote Gavi and Nico Gonzalez temporarily to the first-team setup. Both youngsters impressed fans and the coaching staff alike, with the latter getting a first-team number in January 2022.
Fast Forward to 2022/23, Nico has left the club to join Valencia on loan. Gavi, meanwhile, has trumped de Jong to a starting spot in the team.
As for Wijnaldum, he has joined Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma on a season-long after a terrible tenure at PSG.