Koeman leaves Barcelona with worst win record as manager in almost 20 years

Barcelona's misery continues with loss at Rayo Vallecano (2:56)

Days after Barcelona's loss in El Clasico, Memphis Depay misses a penalty kick as Radamel Falcao scores the winner for Rayo Vallecano. (2:56)

After slumping to one disastrous performance too many, Ronald Koeman has officially been relieved of his position as Barcelona manager.

The former Netherlands boss replaced Quique Setien in August 2020 with the club seemingly at its lowest point, reeling from the 8-2 humbling by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals and then receiving Lionel Messi's infamous request to leave the club via burofax.

But Koeman struggled to steady the good ship Barca, with his 14-month tenure coming to an underwhelming midweek end with a 1-0 defeat against Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.).

Barca's loss was their fourth in their last six games, with the humiliation in front of a jeering Vallecas crowd sending the Catalans down to ninth place in LaLiga, nine points off leaders Real Madrid.

The decisive goal was scored by veteran striker Radamel Falcao, and the 35-year-old may well receive gratitude from some Barca fans who were waiting for Koeman to go.

After just 67 games in charge, Koeman was fired in the hours after the final whistle. He departs the Camp Nou with a record of 39 wins, 12 draws and 16 defeats. Indeed, Koeman's win percentage in all competitions stands at just 58%, which is the lowest by any Barca manager to have overseen at least five games since Radomir Antic (50%), who took charge for 24 games in 2002-03. Even Setien, his hapless predecessor, managed to win 64% of his 25 games in charge.

Just last Sunday, Koeman became only the second Barcelona manager in history to lose his first three Clasicos -- emulating the record of Patrick O'Connell, who managed his last game for the Catalan club in 1940. The galling 2-1 home defeat against Real Madrid (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.) was enough to make irate fans mob Koeman's car as he left the Camp Nou , which is never usually a good sign.

Barca later branded the incident "violent and disdainful," while Koeman tried his best to put a brave face on the abuse:

"I was with my wife, but there were also people behind us filming [a documentary], so I have everything recorded. There was that one guy wearing the Arsenal shirt behind the car, you saw him, right? I wasn't scared. There was a moment I thought about getting out, but it was better not to. There were a lot of people filming and [making] Tik-Tok [videos] and they want you to get involved."

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In Koeman's first season as head coach, Barcelona endured a second successive season without winning LaLiga, which hadn't happened since before Pep Guardiola took charge in 2008-09.

Barca hadn't finished any lower than second in the table since then either, but Koeman took them to a third-place finish in his debut year; the club's lowest league finish and points tally (87), as well as their highest defeat count (seven) since those dark days of 2007-08.

Every Dutch coach to come before Koeman at Barcelona has fared significantly better, with compatriots Frank Rijkaard (2), Louis Van Gaal (2), Johan Cruyff (4) and Rinus Michels (1) winning nine league titles between them.

On the European front, Koeman presided over Barca's longest-ever Champions League winless streak (five games), which only came to an end with a 1-0 home victory over Dynamo Kiev in their third match of the 2021-22 group stage earlier this month. During that run, they conceded 14 goals while scoring only twice, though in fairness they did play Juventus, Bayern Munich, Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain (twice, in last season's round of 16).

However, that doesn't alter the fact that Koeman leaves having racked up a higher Champions League/European Cup losing percentage (36%) than any other Barca manager in history -- including Terry Venables, Lorenzo Serra Ferrer and Setien.

Speculation has been rife as to who will be next to try their hand in restoring Barcelona to greatness. To the surprise of no one, bona fide club legend Xavi Hernandez is in the frame to succeed Koeman in the dugout.

What has felt inevitable for so long could soon become reality, with sources telling ESPN that talks between Al Sadd coach Xavi and Barca will begin on Thursday.

But, for Koeman, this is the end of the line of his return to the club that he represented with such distinction as a player. In his six years at the club between 1989 and 1995, Koeman won 10 trophies including four LaLiga titles and the European Cup, with the 1-0 victory over Sampdoria in the 1992 final at Wembley coming courtesy of the Dutchman scoring one of his trademark free kicks in extra time.

Sadly, for the younger generation, Koeman will not be remembered for his starring role as a Barca player, but his stumbling one as their manager.

One quirk of the sacking is that Koeman was fired exactly one year to the day since the resignation of former Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, the man who appointed him. Barca fans will be bracing themselves in the days building up to Oct. 27, 2022.