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Luis Enrique made huge waves earlier this week, when he announced in the media that he would be stepping down from the post of Barcelona manager at the end of the season.
The Barcelona boss made the shocking announcement after his team trounced Liga minnows Sporting Gijon 6-1 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night. The 46-year old cited tiredness as the main reason behind his decision and went on to say that he is in need of rest.
“I won’t be Barcelona coach next season,” Enrique said. “The way I do this job is why I have to leave. There are very few hours to rest. I need to rest. I want to thank club for their confidence, and the players for their dedication and professionalism.”
Enrique took charge of the Catalan outfit back in 2014, leading them to a Champions League, La Liga and Domestic Cup triumphs in his first season, before masterminding a domestic double in the previous season. However, things have gone slightly downhill this term for the Blaugrana, with an exit from Europe looming large and the prospects of another Liga win looking difficult amid challenges from Real Madrid and Sevilla.
A number of candidates are believed to be on the shortlist to take over as the next Barcelona boss and as many as 6 names have been linked with the club.
Ahead of the former AS Roma and Celta Vigo manager’s imminent departure, we take a look at three candidates who could be in contention for the Barcelona manager’s post at the end of this season:
The Everton manager is high up the manager wish list of Barcelona management to take over at the Camp Nou for the upcoming season.
Koeman during his tenure in the English Premier League, with Southampton and now Everton, has impressed everyone and has become one of the most coveted managers around the world. A disciple of the Barcelona footballing ideologies, the Dutchman played a huge role in Southampton’s emergence as a Premier League outfit and brought a sense of stability at the St. Mary’s. Having taken over at the Goodison Park this season, Koeman has done quite a good job with the Toffees as well.
A manager that encourages a fluid and attacking brand of football, his teams are known to be solid at the back as well. The things that he has done with the squads at Everton and Southampton indicate that he could scale greater heights working with a star-studded roster like the one at Barcelona. Having spent ten years at Barcelona as a part of the much-esteemed Johan Cruyff’s team and also having worked as an assistant under Louis Van Gaal, Koeman knows the club in and out and is familiar with the style of football that is associated with the Catalans, making him the most ideal candidate to take over in the upcoming summer.
Another manager who played a huge role in the resurgence of Southampton is now leading Tottenham Hotspur on the way to establishing themselves as a team to be reckoned with in England and Europe. Mauricio Pochettino is also a candidate for the Barcelona job.
Pochettino worked wonders with the Saints squad during his tenure at the south coast club, before his excellent work there earned him a move to North London.In his three and a half years with Spurs, the Argentine has turned them into one of the most feared teams in the Premier League. Pochettino almost masterminded a title triumph last season, only to slip up at the end. However, they are once again right up there this term as well. The title may seem a far reach at this point, but Spurs could well finish as runners-up.
A self-professed fan of the way Barcelona operate, Pochettino sets his teams out to play a fast attacking brand of football with high intensity and could prove to be a shrewd choice for the Catalans. His past experience in the Spanish top division, with Barcelona’s local rivals Espanyol will hold him in good stead. There are a lot of clubs in Europe, who are interested in the Tottenham manager’s services, but Barcelona will benefit greatly if they get their hands on Pochettino.
The Argentine tactician, who missed out on the Chelsea job in the summer due to his poor English, has taken Sevilla to new heights this season and has been tipped as the most likely candidate to replace Enrique.
Sampaoli, during his time with the Chilean national team, led them to great success before taking over at Sevilla in the summer to replace Unai Emery. He has masterminded a great run in the La Liga that sees them close on the tails of Barcelona and Real Madrid, by staying third in the standings. He is known for a high-pressing game with lots of energy and intensity and that has been on display in Seville this season.
Someone who is yet to make a mark in club football, Sampaoli has proven that he has the mettle to succeed, having led Chile to a Copa America triumph in 2015, ending a trophy drought that had lasted for 99 years. An astute tactician and an equally good man-manager, the Argentine is held in very high regards in the world of football and could very well be right man to take Barcelona forward.