Xavi, Pirlo, and the potential replacements for Koeman at Barcelona.

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Ater the club's dismal start to the season, Barcelona president Joan Laporta and his board are contemplating who should replace coach Ronald Koeman.

As Benfica chopped his squad to pieces in a humiliating 3-0 Champions League defeat on Wednesday, the Dutchman looked a miserable figure on the touchline, and that result appears to be the final straw for Laporta, who has never completely backed the coach.

Although Koeman will be in charge against Atletico Madrid on Saturday night, he will not be on the bench because he is suspended for the match against last season's champions. Barcelona fans expect to see the coach on the sidelines for the final time, with just his legendary status as a former player keeping him from being fired early.

Here are the cards Laporta and his team are playing in their search for a replacement for Koeman.

Xavi Hernandez

At some time in his career, Xavi will undoubtedly coach Barcelona. He has made it plain that this is his top priority, and it would encapsulate the club's ambition to bring back native talent at all levels.

Al-former Sadd's midfielder and current coach was Pep Guardiola's Barcelona's beating heart, a club legend who best embodied the principles Laporta seeks to revive.

Xavi will be given more time and patience than any other probable addition, just as Koeman's history afforded him some time even when results weren't going his way last season. The players will look up to him, and the fans will be in his palm.

His work in Qatar has been outstanding, and being a La Masia alumnus, he is intimately familiar with the club. And everything else that goes with it, which is a major issue in Barcelona, where the stakes are high.

Laporta, on the other hand, has reservations about Xavi for three reasons. He was close to presidential candidate Victor Font's campaign and would not be considered a Laporta pick. That matters in the ego game.

Furthermore, the 41-year-old would be a dominant figure at the club, and if he had a spat with Laporta like Koeman, things might become ugly.

More realistically, unlike Guardiola, Xavi has not coached Barca B and is not thought to be interested in doing so, despite Laporta's wishes. He has no coaching experience outside of Qatar.

Roberto Martinez

The Belgium coach is rumored to be interested in taking over at Barcelona and is considered one of the main runners for the job. He noted ahead of the Nations League final four, “In football, you never know what tomorrow will bring.”

Martinez and sources close to Barcelona both deny that the two clubs have made contact, although Martinez does have a solid relationship with Jordi Cruyff, Barcelona's assistant sports director, which works in his favor.

Martinez's possession-based attacking style would appeal to Barcelona fans more than Koeman's, and Belgium has performed admirably under his guidance. With the Red Devils, though, he prefers a three-at-the-back formation and has been accused of having no Plan B.

Martinez, who was born in Catalonia, is regarded as one of the region's own, and his name has been frequently associated with Barcelona throughout the years. The primary question surrounding him is whether he would be a pale replica of Guardiola's style rather than the genuine article.

Martinez has been coaching for 14 years and his only real achievements are winning League One with Swansea in 2008 and the FA Cup with Wigan in 2013. None of the other candidates have a dazzling managerial CV at club level.

He hasn't managed a team since being fired by Everton in 2016, so it's a big ask for him to come in and resurrect a fallen behemoth.

Andrea Pirlo

Laporta's personal favorite candidate for the role is thought to be the former Italy midfielder. He certainly knows how to talk the talk.

He told The Athletic, "I'm not going to change (my style) because some of the results weren't favorable." “Playing out from the back, looking to keep the ball and regaining possession as quickly as possible is still how I think about the game.”

One of Laporta's biggest annoyances with Koeman has been the coach's defensive tactics against stronger opponents, such as resorting to a 3-5-2 system against Benfica.

Pirlo struggled at Juventus, notably a 2-0 home loss to Barcelona's Ronald Koeman, which he eventually avenged at Camp Nou. His club was also eliminated in the final 16 of the Champions League by Porto, a result Barcelona has had far too often recently in Europe.

However, the fact that Juventus has fallen even further this season, to tenth place, demonstrates that many of their issues go deeper than the coach.

Gallardo Marcelo

The River Plate coach has also been connected with the Barcelona job, and his contract with the Argentine club is set to expire in December.

He is undoubtedly River's most successful coach in history, and he prefers to play fast, aggressive football. In-game, the 45-year-old can also adapt and solve problems, something Koeman has struggled with. Guardiola has endorsed Gallardo, calling his work "amazing" and suggesting he is one of the best three managers in the world.

While Gallardo's style isn't strictly tiki-taka, that may be a good thing right now. Football has progressed, and he may be able to provide solutions to the challenges that slow and defensive Barcelona faced from teams like Bayern Munich.

Gallardo's ambitions may have been harmed by Lionel Messi's departure, as choosing an Argentine coach would have been a gesture to the former captain's inclinations. It will also be seen unfavorably if you have never worked in Europe.

Before hiring Quique Setien to replace Ernesto Valverde, former president Josep Maria Bartomeu considered Gallardo.

Ten Hag's Bridge

Other candidates have been mentioned as candidates for the Barcelona position, including Spain coach Luis Enrique, who claims Laporta does not have his phone number, and former Chelsea and Inter striker Antonio Conte. One of the reasons Koeman is still in his job is that there is no clear front-runner.

Erik ten Hag of Ajax may be the best option, but he is not expected to join in the middle of the season. Another possibility for Barcelona would be to hire a youth coach on a temporary basis to help the team's young players improve before moving to Ten Hag next summer.

Albert Capellas, who worked as Jordi Cruyff's assistant at Chongqing Lifan, has been recommended for the post. Garcia Pimienta, the former B team coach, would have been ideal, but he was fired in the summer, and his replacement, Sergi Barjuan, has failed.

If Laporta determines the club would be better off without Koeman but can't find a suitable replacement, this could be the best - and cheapest - option.

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