Ronald Koeman looks to have sat on the Barcelona bench for the last time with club directors debating until 4am in Lisbon how they get around LaLiga’s Financial Fair Play rules to sack him.
The president Joan Laporta is expected to leave the club playing legend in charge for Saturday’s game against Atletico Madrid but because he is banned from the touchline he will not sit in the dug-out for that game, and there will be no more games beyond the visit to the Wanda Metropolitano.
Barcelona have the international break to install a new coach but their options are limited by the Spanish League rules applied to teams who fail to operate inside LaLiga-imposed salary limits.
They can defer the €12m (£10.3m) they will owe Ronald Koeman but they can only spend €3.8m (£3.3m) on a new management team, around 4 per cent of the €97m (£83.6m) they are allowed to spend on the squad in total.
Suggestions they might go for Andrea Pirlo were met with incredulity by most fans on Thursday morning. The romantics among them were imagining how Barcelona might play in the style of the Italian midfielder.
The far more realistic majority were remembering his spell at Juventus and concluding that this is not a job for someone who has no experience of LaLiga – or indeed Barcelona.
One of Barcelona’s vice-presidents Eduard Romeu has said in the past that the club could afford to sack Ronald Koeman and it’s true that there is no impediment to them doing so. But the difficult job would be to pay for his replacement.
LaLiga’s convoluted rules are open to interpretation and other estimates suggest that the club would only be able to spend on €2.9m (£2.5m) on a new coaching team. What is clear is that any managerial change will be very complicated.
Roberto Martinez is Laporta’s favourite but the former Everton coach would have to buy himself out of his contract with the Belgium football federation at the cost of around €1.8m (£1.6m). He would need Barcelona to reimburse him that money.
The one name that would appease all supporters is Xavi. In the past Laporta has baulked at throwing Xavi into the current situation and also at giving him exactly what he wants in terms of a coaching framework. Xavi has also been reticent about the timing of taking over now.
But with Barcelona having lost their opening two Champions League games for the first time ever and having failed to score a single goal the situation was described by Sergio Busquets as ‘critical’ so there could be movement on both sides.