Ronald Koeman is the obvious name to watch. The Barcelona legend, the man who scored the extra-time winner in the club’s first-ever European Cup win in 1992, an icon of Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ in the 1990s. Koeman has now returned to the club as coach, tasked with a whole scale rebuilding project and stealing the title back from Real Madrid.
“Barcelona is like a home to me,” he said during his presentation in back August. “Now I am here as coach, that makes me very happy.”
From the look of his early days in charge, the Dutchman looks keen to continue in the tradition of attacking, possession-based football the club is known for: “We (with Cruyff) had the best combination. We played attacking football and won titles. That’s always the philosophy we have pursued at Barça. We have to play good football that fans will enjoy, and win too.”
On the pitch, Koeman will have a few new players at his disposal in addition to the returning Philippe Coutinho, who spent last season on loan at Bayern Munich. 19-year-old right-back Sergiño Dest joined from Ajax in a deal worth up to €26 million and became the first USA international to ever play for the club in La Liga.
Bosnian international Miralem Pjanic was brought in from Juventus over the summer to reinforce the midfield, joining the likes the Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong, Coutinho and Riqui Puig in the middle of the park, as were both Trincao and Pedri, from Braga and Las Palmas, respectively.
Trincao is already a full Portugal international at 20 and commanded a €31 million fee in the summer, while Pedri is still just 17 but tipped for a huge future: “Pedri is a blessing for Spanish football,” said former Betis and current Las Palmas coach Pepe Mel this summer.
On the other side of the El Clasico divide, Real Madrid have started the season with the same squad which won the 2019-20 La Liga Santander title with such incredible end of season form (W10, D1).
But one notable addition to the squad is the returning Martin Odegaard, who shone last season on loan at Real Sociedad. The 21-year-old Norwegian looks to have begun fulfilling his incredible potential (which prompted Real Madrid to sign him as a 16-year-old in 2015) and has featured early on for Zidane this season.
With Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric now 35, the club may look to Odegaard to provide the creative spark in the Real Madrid midfield for years to come.
The El Clasico will be played at the Camp Nou on Saturday 24 October from 5pm EAT.