Legendary Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez is poised as a strong favourite to replace Ronald Koeman, who was sacked after 14 months in charge.

The 58-year-old Dutchman was dismissed after a 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday left the Spanish giants sitting ninth in La Liga.

Barca have won only two of their last seven league games under Koeman, a run that included losing to Real Madrid in Sunday’s Clasico at Camp Nou.

A poor start to the season has raised the possibility of the team failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League, which would have enormous consequences for the club’s already dire financial situation.

“The president of the club, Joan Laporta, informed him of the decision after the defeat against Rayo Vallecano.

“Ronald Koeman will say goodbye to the squad on Thursday at the Ciutat Esportiva (training ground),” an official statement from the club stated.

Xavi, who is currently in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd, is considered Koeman’s most likely successor and would be a hugely popular choice with the Barca fans given his glittering playing career there.

River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag have also been linked with the post but might be reluctant to leave their jobs mid-season.

Barcelona B coach Sergi Barjuan could take charge of the first team on an interim basis, with games against Alaves, Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League and Celta Vigo to come before the next international break.

Koeman spent six years at Barcelona as a player and is considered a club legend after scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria.

He was appointed coach by Barca’s previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu in August 2020 and enjoyed some success in his first season, winning the Copa del Rey and bringing a disillusioned Lionel Messi back onside.

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