It promises to be the end of an era at FC Barcelona.
Luis Enrique, having won two La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey titles and the UEFA Champions League in 2015, has decided to call it quits at the Spanish club.
The question that looms, however, is who will replace him? Barcelona have one of the finest squads in the world football, with some of the most sought after players plying their trade at Camp Nou, but not just any manager can walk in and coach them. The Blaugrana need someone who can control the egos, as well as push this already excellent squad to be even better.
There are a number of ex-players and outsiders that have been speculated as potential candidates. Frank de Boer was recently sacked by Inter and is currently available, yet his poor record may be enough for Barca not to consider him.
Camp Nou legends Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandes have also been touted as possible choices. Xavi, however, is still contracted to Al-Sadd in Saudi Arabia, and Puyol has had very little experience with management. These options are unlikely to be chosen in the face of more successful names.
Pochettino is one of football’s most promising young managers. At the age of 44 he is finding respectable success with Tottenham Hotspur in the cutthroat environment of the Premier League. The Argentine has caught the eyes of a number of top clubs around the globe and with some experience in La Liga managing Espanyol, he may be of particular interest to Barcelona. It will not be a simple ask to coax him away from Tottenham though, after he signed a contract extension with the London club to 2021 last year. Barcelona, however, often have their ways of getting what they want. If they honestly believe Pochettino is their man, there is little that can stop them.
Sacristan is one of La Liga’s most successful managers this season and his history with Barcelona could be an indicator that he is one of their top choices to replace Enrique. The 52-year-old took over Real Sociedad after the departure of David Moyes and has since turned a club in turmoil into a team capable of challenging the Champions League spots. While his credentials are decent, his history is what may convince the Spanish giants to hire him. The ex-Barca player also worked as an assistant manager at Camp Nou for five-years, as well as managing the Barcelona B side for four years – something that Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique both did before they became managers. If the Blaugrana follow in the footsteps of these previous masterminds, then Sacristan may be the next logical choice.
Sampaoli is man that many reports have suggested Barca are watching keenly. Despite having only joined Sevilla this year, the Argentine is in the spotlight after it was revealed he has a release clause of €1.5 million. It is easy to see why Barcelona are reportedly so interested in his services, as the 56-year-old is one of the most exciting managers in world football. Sampoali exploded onto the scene after he achieved great success with the Chilean national team as manager from 2012-2016, winning the Copa America, which lead his appointment as manager of Sevilla.
Sampoali has since sent the Sevillistas shooting up the table and they now sit in third place, just two points from the summit and nine points ahead of fourth placed Atletico Madrid. The managerial skill of the Argentine cannot be denied and as he sits on a contract offer from Sevilla, it is looking increasingly likely that Barcelona will activate his release clause come the end of the season.