Following Luis Enrique’s decision to step down from his position as Barcelona manager earlier this week, a host of candidates have been lauded as possible replacements for the job that is regarded as one of the most difficult in the world of sports.
Here, we take a look at the five most likely managers to hold press conferences at the Camp Nou come June.
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Ernesto Valverde @ 3/1
Probably the least recognisable of the managers on this list—quite ironically—the Athletic Bilbao manager comes in first.
Valverde would be more akin to the stereotypical Barcelona manager. Left-field, a former player at the club, with experience managing in La Liga—not that far removed from the Luis Enrique appointment.
Don’t let these seemingly unquantifiable qualities mislead you, though; the Spaniard is a great manager and has done a hell of a job at Bilbao, leading the club to the Champions League in 2014 and lifting the Spanish Supercup against Barcelona with a mind-blowing 5-1 victory in 2015.
Jorge Sampaoli @4/1
A close second, the Argentine manager would be, in principle, a more likely option than Valverde. Sampaoli, 56, is the current manager of league rivals Sevilla, a position he took over at the start of the season. He has done a terrific job with Sevilla this season as they currently occupy the third spot in the league, just four points behind leaders Real Madrid.
Sampaoli has his achievements—a Copa America victory with Chile in 2015 springs clearly to mind—but his philosophy is one that Barcelona fans may not be quite as receptive to. The former Chile manager favours an intense, almost reckless press, a playing style that might not suit Barcelona’s philosophy.
Arsene Wenger @4/1
Definitely the most high profile manager on the list, Wenger would represent the closest thing to a continuation of the Barcelona tradition. The Frenchman has a penchant for encouraging youth, and is partial to the possession-based style of football Barcelona are known for.
One problem with this, however, is Wenger’s recent failures. The Arsenal manager has won only two trophies—back-to-back FA Cup victories in 2014 and 2015—in the past 12 years. A damning statistic that will not sit well with most.
Mauricio Pochettino @10/1
Young, Argentine, known to support youth, and incredibly charismatic, the Tottenham manager would be a fit at the club.
Only 44 years old, Pochettino is the youngest player on this list. The Argentine also has experience managing in Spain, as he spent three—with relative success—at the helm of Espanyol. He is unlikely to leave Tottenham anytime soon, though, so this would be an unlikely bet.
Ronaldo Koeman @12/1
Koeman, another former Barcelona player, is last on the list, not because he doesn’t fit the bill, but because, much like Sampaoli, he only just signed for a new club—Everton—last summer.
Koeman has had considerable success everywhere he’s gone and has not been shy about his desire to manage Barcelona. A possibility? Yes. Highly probable. Not quite.