“I won’t be at Barcelona next season,” said Luis Enrique in his post-match press conference. “I need to rest. I would like to thank the club for the confidence they have shown in me. It’s been three unforgettable years. It’s a very difficult decision for me, one I’ve thought about a lot, but I think I need to be true to myself and fair to my way of thinking.
“In the pre-season I had a meeting with Albert Soler (Barça’s director of professional sports) and Robert Fernández (Barça’s technical secretary) where I mooted the possibility that I might not renew my contract. They told me there was no rush to take the decision. That moment has arrived. I’m announcing it. The reason is I live my work looking for solutions and it gives me little time to rest.
“I’d like to thank the club for the confidence they’ve shown in me over my time. They gave me the chance to coach the B team, I did that, and these three years have been unforgettable. I thank the club for all the support and professionalism and I’m not forgetting there are still three incredible months to go.”
So, now the news has broken that one of the biggest jobs in World Football will be up for grabs in the summer, who will get it? It is a given that in the past, the Barcelona board insist the coach must be someone who shares their footballing philosophy – ensuring every player is comfortable on the ball, technically excellent and positionally adaptable, with possession and energy being key.
Below are the three men who I believe are best suited to take over at the Nou Camp and why.
1 – Jorge Sampaoli – Current club: Sevilla
Many people’s favourite to take the job in the summer, the 56 year old Argentinian has won plaudits from all over Europe for the way he has transformed Sevilla from top 4 hopefuls into title challengers, whilst playing some of the most exciting, attractive Football anywhere in the World currently. His attacking, energetic and tactically astute methods are a perfect fit for Barcelona, who base their whole footballing identity on posession, flair and energy. Doubts have been raised about the fact Sampaoli has only been a club manager in Spain since the beginning of this season, which may go against him, but his coaching methods mixed with the talent Barca have in their squad is a mouth watering thought. He’s Argentinian links should also help with keeping Messi happy, which is obviously a huge benefit!
Sampaoli’s managerial statistics
Games Wins Draws Defeats Win %
2 – Ernesto Valverde – Current club: Athletic Bilbao
Perhaps a surprise choice for many who do not follow Spanish Football too closely, Valverde will feel he has earned his chance to coach one of the two big boys and those who are aware of his coaching credentials will agree. An ex Barcelona, Bilbao, Mallorca and Espanyol player himself, Valverde’s knowledge of the Spanish setup is unrivalled and his time at Barcelona as a player may give him the edge with some fans and directors at the club when the decision is made. A managerial career which has seen him at several Spanish clubs, he has won particular praise for the work he has done at Bilbao. For a club with a strict policy to sign basque-only footballers, his record is very good (see below) and he has achieved these numbers playing an attractive brand of football with a limited pool of players.
Valverde’s managerial statistics
Games Wins Draws Defeats Win %
3 – Mauricio Pochettino – Current club : Tottenham Hotspur
The least likely of the 3 listed in this article to get the nod for the top job, Pochettino’s reputation continues to rise as he masterminds Tottenham’s challenge for the Premier League title. Not only does he play the free flowing, attacking, posession-based football required, he also has one of the best records in Europe for developing and promoting youth from the Spurs academy into the first team, with players such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Harry Winks and Eric Dier all becoming established Premier League players under the Argentinian. Given how famous the Catalan club are for promoting youth through to the senior team from the world famous La Masia academy, this would give Pochettino a huge advantage over other candidates. However, his close ties to cross-city rivals Espanyol, where he was both a player and a manager may significantly dent his chances of landing the top job, should the offer ever be made to him.
Pochettino’s managerial statistics:
Games Won Drew Defeats Win %
Whoever the Barcelona board decide to hire next, the new manager has a huge job on his hands. The disappointing form of several key players in the first team needs addressing, with Pique, Busquets and Iniesta in particular showing consistently poor form this season. Messi’s contract, poor signings in the transfer window and the constant failure to sign proper defensive cover at center half and right-back all need to be addressed immediately.
Prepare yourselves for an extremely interesting summer.
Més que un club.