Luis Enrique To Step Down At The End Of The Season – Four Potential Replacements

Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique has announced that he will not take charge of the club next season. Enrique made the announcement after Wednesday night’s 6-1 La Liga victory over Sporting Gijon. I have read a lot of media outlets calling it a shock, it shouldn’t come as one. After Barcelona were completely outplayed by PSG in the first leg of their Champions League tie, it only confirmed that a new direction was needed. His list of honours as Barcelona manager should not be questioned having won:

  • La Liga: 2014–15, 2015–16
  • Copa del Rey: 2014–15, 2015–16
  • Supercopa de España: 2016
  • UEFA Champions League: 2014–15
  • UEFA Super Cup: 2015
  • FIFA Club World Cup: 2015

Despite the honours, there have been some questions about how Barcelona play under Enrique. It was clear to me, when Barcelona played PSG their midfield had very little influence. Iniesta and Gomes don’t necessarily come across as box-to-box midfielders in the strictest sense of the word. Sensing the need to aid the attack, Busquets continually pushed forward, seeking to close the space that manifested between the front three and midfield. However, given that he is far from gifted with the ball at his feet, there was nothing to be gained from these forays. This, combined with the movement of PSG’s front three, sowed mass confusion for the visitors. The movement of the front three pinned back the fullbacks, Alba and Roberto forcing them to play with less width than usual. Iniesta and Gomes, both strong with the ball at their feet but neither the quickest, often were forced deep to receive the ball, meaning that Barcelona’s proclivity for short, quick, passing was made difficult to execute.

The club may look unlikely to progress in the Champions League, however Barcelona face Alaves in the Copa Del Rey on May 27. The Catalans are also in a great position in the league, currently in top spot one point above rivals Real Madrid have played a game more. There is a good chance for Luis Enrique to end his time at Barcelona on a high.

Talk will now turn to who will replace Enrique in the summer. Below are a list of contenders for the job.

Jorge Sampaoli – Currently the early favourite to replace Enrique in the summer. Few would be unhappy at this appointment, Sampaoli has done an unbelievable job at Sevilla. Sampaoli is a cut above the rest and would be perfect to replace the outgoing Luis Enrique. However it is never that simple at Barcelona. The club go for what feels like the counter-intuitive decision, Barcelona have complicated internal politics. Those exact politics are the main reason why Luis Enrique has decided to leave in the summer. They are also massive reason as to why the job seems to burn out and run down so many, leaving them requiring the type of break the 46-year-old is set to take. Barcelona want to restore the style of play that saw them so successful under Pep Guardiola, Jorge Sampaoli is the man to do that. The problem is, Barcelona’s hierarchy are concerned about Sampaoli’s temperament. The hierarchy would prefer a manager who once played for the club.

Mauricio Pochettino – The Argentine who has done an excellent job since moving to England. Firstly taking over at Southampton, many people had the audacity to question who the man was. Pochettino has certainly made a name for himself in the Premier League. Now at Spurs, Pochettino has turned Tottenham into title contenders, from a team who were hovering just outside the top four. The Barcelona board seem to admire Pochettino, you wouldn’t blame the Tottenham manager for leaving White Hart Lane if he is approached by the Spanish giants. The Tottenham manager has told Daniel Levy, he needs to strengthen the squad if they are to succeed in Europe and on a domestic front. This could open the door for Barcelona, with Levy known for rarely parting with his millions. The signing of Moussa Sissoko will only heighten Levy’s desire not to waste money on players.

Ronald Koeman – It has already been suggested that Barcelona would like a manager who once played for the club. Koeman fits that criteria, with the Dutchman having a very successful  period at the club as a player. Koeman has struggled to turn Everton into top four contenders in the Premier League. However, he is still having a very successful season with the Toffees. The Everton manager may not be one of the favourites amongst the Spanish media, though he would definitely be in the Barcelona boards thinking. Koeman may not be the man to restore the style of play that the board clearly crave.

Arsene Wenger – Many may laugh at my suggestion of Arsene Wenger. However with the constant abuse he receives from the Arsenal fans, it wouldn’t surprise me if he left the club in the summer. Wenger likes his sides to play football the right way. I believe the Barcelona board would identify the Frenchman as a potential replacement for Enrique. Wenger says he still has a few years of management left in him, so why not end it on a high at Barcelona? It has been made brutally clear that the majority of Arsenal fans do not want him at the Emirates any longer. Wenger can restore the style of play the hierarchy want. Wenger is quality manager, I hope for him that his last few years in the game are a success.

It remains to be seen who Barcelona will choose as their next manager. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a shock appointment that comes from nowhere, like a Xavi or a Carles Puyol for instance. However Sampaoli is definitely my pick. The Sevilla manager is by far the standout candidate. We will look to Barcelona with interest in the coming weeks and months.