Ronald Koeman's dream came true.
At least that's what he thought.
After his heyday as a player at Camp Nou, the trainer who was sacked on Thursday will go down in the books as a symbol of one of the darkest periods in FC Barcelona's club history.
In the clause in Koeman's contract as national coach of the Dutch national team, one club was mentioned: FC Barcelona.
The KNVB could have said no to Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich or Manchester City, but if Barcelona wanted Koeman, he went.
And that happened in August 2020.
Since Koeman started his first job as head coach at Vitesse twenty years earlier, he has never made it a secret that he wanted to coach Barcelona one day.
His free kick in the 1992 European Cup I final against Sampdoria made him a hero in Catalonia.
And the love came from both sides.
"It's a dream come true," he said at his presentation at the Camp Nou.
He wanted to, maybe too much.
On the one hand, the entry point seemed ideal.
Barcelona had just lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and so things could only get better under Koeman.
On the other hand, the corona crisis would last a long time.
Due to the empty stands, Camp Nou had none of the grandeur that Koeman knew from his time as a player.
And that cut financially harder at Barcelona than at other European powers.
Koeman presented at FC Barcelona: 'A day to be very proud'
'He treated me with contempt'
Without money, Koeman had to build.
Or rather: clearing rubble, while the debt rose to more than 1 billion euros.
And he was not thanked for that.
High earner Luis Suárez, who left for Atlético Madrid, called him "a man without personality".
"He told me to tell others to leave. And treated me with contempt."
Other thirty-somethings such as Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba stayed, but no longer reached the level of yesteryear.
And then there were the very expensive bad buys Philippe Coutinho (145 million euros), Ousmane Dembélé (138 million euros) and Antoine Griezmann (120 million euros), who also failed to get Koeman to play football.
The most expensive power of all, Lionel Messi, was no longer interested in the arrival of Koeman.
He trudged across the field as Barcelona had their worst start to the season in 30 years with eight points from eight games.
Miraculously it worked after that.
Top talent Pedri got the chance from Koeman.
Later also teenagers like Gavi, Nico González and Yusuf Demir.
Among those talents, Messi threw off the chagrin.
He scored thirty times in his last season with Barcelona, which even came close to the league title.
In the end it was a third place and a win of the Copa del Rey.
The only problem was that Koeman also had to fight off the field at that time.
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Money seemed to be the only reason for postponing dismissal
"It is 99 percent certain that Koeman will be fired," the influential Catalan radio station
on its website in May. It was time for revolution. Revolution under returned president Joan Laporta. Koeman had been met by predecessor Josep Bartomeu, the man behind the mismanagement that had brought Barcelona financially to the brink of collapse. And that didn't make it any easier for the Dutchman.
Meanwhile, it became known that Messi made half a billion in four years at the Camp Nou. In tears, he left for Paris Saint-Germain as other players gave up salaries to keep the club afloat. Money also seemed to be the only reason Koeman survived. The name of club icon Xavi was already circulating, but he had just extended his contract with the Qatari Al Sadd. Moreover, Barcelona could not cough up a transfer fee for Koeman.
It was painful that it leaked that Koeman would be fired if Laporta found a suitable candidate within two weeks.
When that failed, the chairman suddenly expressed his confidence in "club icon" Koeman, who was unable to get his team up and running in the new season, the first Messi-less Barcelona in fifteen years.
Plagued by injuries, he had to make do with mercenary Luuk de Jong, who they no longer found good enough at Sevilla.
Barcelona fans attack Koeman's car after losing to Real Madrid
Koeman car dented and spat on
"I have come into an extremely complex situation here out of love for the club and it is getting more difficult by the day," Koeman emphasized, hoping for support from the fans.
It didn't help.
After the lost Clásico against Real Madrid, Koeman's car was spat on and bumped by its own supporters.
The memory of his striking free kick at Wembley - the club's most glorious moment in the last century - never seemed so distant.
Three days later, Rayo Vallecano lost 1-0 and the era of coach Koeman at Barcelona was over.
It is one of the darkest periods in club history, although there is always a glimmer of hope.
Koeman will also be remembered as the trainer who made the debut of the talents Pedri, Gavi, Demir and Nico González.
Who knows, he may have laid the foundation stones for a new period of glory.
See also: Koeman enters the books as the worst Barcelona coach of the last 18 yearsKeywords: