As things stand, Barcelona will be without a coach at the beginning of next season.
Luis Enrique, the current Barca manager announced his decision to leave the club after a 6-1 victory over Sporting Gijon. According to Guillem Balague, the reputed Spanish football journalist, Luis Enrique made his intentions clear about leaving the club as early as pre-season. Club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu left Enrique’s future in his own hands. The initial plan by Enrique was to announce his departure after the PSG tie. The 4-0 defeat in the first leg pushed things forward and the announcement was made before the second leg. Barcelona still remains in the Champions League and are second in the La Liga.
Here is a look at 5 managers that are on Barcelona’s shortlist to replace the outgoing Catalan:
There are managers whose name have popped up in some circles of discussion regarding Enrique’s successor. Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, Laurent Blanc, Mauricio Pochettino and even Arsene Wenger have come up as possible replacement options. Although all of them are very capable managers, none of them are seen as real contenders for the job. Be it their playing style or their CV, none of them ticks all the boxes that Barcelona board expects.
5- Ronald Koeman
Current Status – Managing Everton; Contract until June 2019
Koeman was one of the best centre-backs in the game. He donned the blue and red of Barcelona for six seasons winning the league for 4 seasons in a row and the 1992 European Cup. He was known for his dead-ball ability and a thunderous right foot. His coaching career has seen him manage in Spain, Portugal, England and “the big three” in Netherlands. He has had a bit of an up and down coaching career epitomised by his spell at Valencia. He led Los Che to a Copa del Rey as well as a 15th place finish. The fact that neither his coaching CV stand out among the other candidates nor does he have the best experience in La Liga makes him an outside shout for the top job.
Current Status – Managing Sevilla; Contract until June 2018
The Argentinian built his reputation managing the South American clubs. His biggest success was at Universidad de Chile where he won three league titles and the 2011 Copa Sudamericana. Sampaoli was then appointed as the coach of the Chilean National Team. He led the home team to the 2015 Copa America title defeating Argentina in the final. He took the reigns at Sevilla and has done a splendid job at the Andalusian club. His playing style reflects that of Marcelo Bielsa, the best manager in the world according to Pep Guardiola. The high-press, energetic, attacking football is a treat to watch. Although the fact that Sampaoli is an eccentric character who speaks his mind out is something that might not fit in with what Barca board is expecting from their coach.
3- Eusebio Sacristán
Current Status – Managing Real Sociedad; Contract until June 2019
Eusebio knows the Catalan club inside out. He was one of the most used members of the Cruyff dream team, playing a role similar to that of Sergio Busquets. Eusebio was a member of the coaching staff under Frank Rijkaard from 2003 to 2008. He has already succeeded Enrique once as the head coach of the Barca B team, managing them for three seasons. Eusebio was sacked after a wretched run of form and doubts over his ability to develop young talent. Eusebio has since repaired his reputation. His current team, Real Sociedad is on course to appear in the Champions League next season. Although, Eusebio himself has pledged allegiance to the Basque club saying that he owes loyalty to the club and has ruled himself out of the running for the job but then again, anything can happen in football.
2- Ernesto Valverde
Current Status – Managing Athletic Bilbao; Contract until June 2017
Valverde is currently in his second stint as the Athletic Bilbao manager. He started at the youth levels at Athletic and has since managed a total of 5 clubs. He was also in the running for the Barcelona top job before the appointment of Luis Enrique. His record as a coach at Athletic Bilbao and Olympiacos is exceptional. He led the lions to their first trophy in 31 years, the Greek club to three successive league titles and Espanyol to a UEFA Super Cup final. Valverde was also a player at Barcelona for two seasons and therefore, knows the club very well. Valverde’s knowledge of the Spanish culture and La Liga’s tactics give him a distinct advantage over his direct rivals for the job.
1- Juan Carlos Unzué
Current Status – Luis Enrique’s Assistant at Barcelona
Promotion of Unzué would be a story similar to that of Guardiola. Unzué was the goalkeeping coach under Frank Rijkaard. He had his first taste of top-flight management in June 2012. He was appointed as the coach of Racing de Santander but was sacked in August due to contractual problems. Unzué returned to Barcelona in 2014 as Enrique’s assistant coach. He also played for Barcelona for two seasons. Despite an almost non-existent coaching career, he is seen as the front-runner for the job. The main points working in his favour are his relation with the players and the club. He is aware of the demands and problems a Barca coach experiences and is thus better placed to face them.