Speculation in Spain suggests that Barcelona have drawn up a shortlist of five managers to replace Gerardo Martino.
Rumours persist that Martino, who replaced Tito Vilanova last summer, could leave the Camp Nou at the end of the season, and those have been intensified by the new reports that Barcelona have lined up five new managerial candidates should ‘Tata’ say ta-ta to Barca.
That still seems unlikely, but some of the names suggested are particularly interesting, with the report also throwing out the names of Everton’s Roberto Martinez and Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Montella, but they didn’t make the cut in the five-man shortlist.
The list starts with Athletic Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde, a former Barcelona player. Valverde has impressed recently in spells with Valencia and Athletic, and would serve as a continuation of Barcelona’s famed tiki-taka, possesion-based style, and currently has Athletic in the top four of La Liga, poised for a Champions League place – a great achievement having replaced Marcelo Bielsa last summer.
Former Barca star and Barcelona B manager Luis Enrique, who seems to be perennially linked with the managerial post in the Catalan capital, has once again been suggested as the first team manager, with his Celta Vigo side sitting in a better than expected 11th position in the La Liga table. His failed spell with Roma is cause for concern, but he has rebuilt his reputation with the Galician side and could yet fulfil the potential he showed with the Barcelona youngsters.
The third manager that would seemingly suit Barcelona’s style of football is former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur boss Andre Villas-Boas. Still only 36, Villas-Boas still has a lot of potential in the world of football management despite two failed spells in England, and his penchant for attractive football could entice Barca into giving him another chance, especially as his style of football is far better suited to Spain.
But the final two suggestions represent a real change of direction from Barcelona, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp put forward for the job. Rather than Barca’s famous patient build up, they would be moving to Klopp’s all-action, intense style of play, which may be what Barcelona need. They have been pushing the same philosophy for some time now, and their lack of evolution has allowed many of Europe’s top clubs to overtake them. A new, fresh approach could be needed at the club, and Klopp’s gung-ho style would certainly do that.
Yet, the most interesting candidate is arguably Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone. ‘El Cholo’ has totally reinvigorated an Atletico side that was often struggling to qualify for the Champions League, and has now turned them into legitimate title contenders – an incredible feat given the much bigger budgets held by Barcelona and Real Madrid. Simeone prefers to play a more defensive system that relies on counter attacking, but his Atleti team have been noted for their dirty work and incredible fight – two things that aren’t always necessarily associated with the free-flowing beauty of Barca. But again, if they are to challenge for the Champions League again, they need to keep evolving, and Simeone’s record with Atletico suggests he could be ideal when it comes to giving Barca a different outlook.
image: © Asia Kuczek