Five candidates to replace Enrique as Barca boss

Asif Norat 08:30 02/03/2017
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Luis Enrique announced Wednesday that he will leave his role as Barcelona manager at the end of the season.

A lot has changed since Enrique won the treble in his first season and now he and the club cut exhausted figures in need of change.

With Enrique headed for he exit door, here are five candidates who could be suitable for one of football’s biggest jobs.

How do you think Enrique did in the job and who do you think should replace him?

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MARCELO BIELSA (Unattached)

Former Athletic Bilbao and Marseille manager Bielsa, who is known to be adaptable to different systems and formations, and renowned for a dynamic style of play, has regularly been linked with the Barcelona job in recent years and is seen as the dream coach by many Blaugrana fans.

In his two seasons at Bilbao, the enigmatic coach utilised the 3-3-3-1 formation that he first introduced while coaching the Argentina and Chile national teams. The system helped his sides shift from defence to attack in seconds, with his players able to put in a shift on both sides of the pitch. His style of football has had a major influence on some of the biggest coaches in Europe, including the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jorge Sampaoli and Mauricio Pochettino.

Despite not winning a major honour with the Basque club, Bielsa was one of the few managers to completely dominate a Sir Alex Ferguson side – Athletic beating Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford and 2-1 at San Mames to knock them out of the 2011-12 Europa League.

Bielsa’s time at Athletic Bilbao wasn’t a one-off success; his brilliance also helped the Chile at the 2010 World Cup, with his intensive and demanding training methods giving rise to talents such as Matias Hernandez, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal. While being regarded as a tactical genius, his ability to grind out results in the difficult matches against the big sides is also widely admired.

The 61-year-old Argentine is obsessed with dominating possession and aggressively pressing to recover the ball – an approach that is certainly compatible with the tika-taka traditions Barcelona inherited from Guardiola.

MAURIZIO SARRI (Napoli)

Since taking the reins at Napoli, Sarri’s influence has been clear to see with his side becoming one of the most exciting teams to watch in Europe.

A native Neapolitan, Sarri has only lost three league games so far this season and the 58-year-old’s impressive work hasn’t gone unnoticed as he recently penned a new three-year-deal. After initially struggling to make a 4-3-1-2 system work he switched to 4-3-3 and Napoli haven’t looked back – the Partenopei are now an entertaining, attack-minded side.

Until 1999, Sarri’s day job was in an Italian bank but after growing tired of only coaching Tegoleto part-time he decided to quit and focus solely on his coaching career. It was a good decision. The three seasons Sarri spent at Empoli were a defining time in his career as he helped the club back to the top-flight after a six-year absence. During his final year with Empoli, he guided the club to a fantastic 15th-place finish in Serie A.

Sarri has no experience coaching abroad having been managing in Italy since his very first job at Stia, but is one of the continent’s best regarded coaches right now. It appears he will remain faithful to the revolution he is producing with Napoli, though the opportunity to work with the likes of Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Neymar may be a difficult one to turn down.

JORGE SAMPAOLI (Sevilla)

Sampaoli is enjoying a sensational time with Sevilla in La Liga and in the Champions League.

After Unai Emery’s departure, a busy transfer window saw 16 players arrive and 13 players leave the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Many questioned whether Sampaoli would be able to continue Emery’s work but he has done a stunning job, with Sevilla currently third in La Liga and into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

His side have conceded more goals than any other team in the top four, but all that Sampaoli cares about it is playing exciting football and getting the results that are needed. Nullifying the opposition never seems high on the priority list of the attack-minded Argentinian.

Sampaoli has given two former Premier League players, Steven N’Zonzi and Samir Nasri, a major role to play at the heart of his midfield and the pair have returned the favour with superb performances in important matches. The French duo have been regarded as the key players to have helped the manager quickly implement his system.

Although Sampaoli is a disciple of Bielsa, he is regarded as a better professional than his hot-headed teacher, who has caused problems at a few clubs in the past. Sampaoli’s exciting style of play and determination for perfection would work well with Barcelona’s core identity and his name has been the one used most regularly in conjunction with replacing Enrique in recent weeks.

ERNESTO VALVERDE (Athletic Bilbao)

The 53-year-old has reportedly long been admired by the Catalans for his stylish brand of football.

He has a wealth of experience having taken charge of Athletic, Espanyol, Villarreal and Valencia in Spain and won three league titles in Greece with Olympiakos.

It would appear both he and Sampaoli are the front-runners given their pressing, possession ideals.

MAURICIO POCHETTINO (Tottenham)

His ties to Barca neighbours Espanyol may make tempting him from England difficult after he enjoyed successful stints as both a player and a manager there.

However, the lure of taking on one of the biggest club jobs in football may change his thoughts on that allegiance.

He’s turned Spurs from top-four hopefuls to title contenders in just two and a half seasons.

RONALD KOEMAN (Everton)

Koeman is enjoying a decent season with the Toffees in the Premier League and was successful in his previous job with Southampton.

But reports in Spain have suggested he is some way behind some of the other candidates.

After a distinguished playing career at the Camp Nou it wouldn’t be impossible but the Dutchman doesn’t appear an obvious fit.

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