Spanish Football Expert & Columnist @GuillemBalague
Who is the perfect fit for Barcelona? Does Lionel Messi have a say? Guillem Balague explains Barca's manager search
Last Updated: 03/03/17 7:03pm
Barcelona are on the hunt for a new manager after Luis Enrique's decision to step down at the end of the season following his side's 6-1 victory against Sporting Gijon in midweek.
But who has the right profile to succeed Luis Enrique? Does Lionel Messi have a say in the decision? And what about the chances of Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and Arsene Wenger for the top job at the Nou Camp?
Sky Sports' Guillem Balague provides the inside track...
Why did Luis Enrique announce his decision to leave when he did?
GUILLEM BALAGUE: "Luis Enrique told the club he was thinking of leaving as early as pre-season but both parties decided to see how the campaign progressed. The timing was always in the hands of Enrique as club president Josep Maria Bartomeu owed him a huge favour. The coach renewed his contract before the elections which put Bartomeu in a strong position to win them, but in exchange Enrique was guaranteed to be in charge of his own destiny.
"Once Enrique had the clear idea that he had had enough it was just a matter of when. The PSG tie was a good moment and the plan was to announce it after it was over, but the 4-0 defeat in the first leg pushed things forward.
"Enrique did not want people to think that his decision was to do with the defeat and the possibility of being knocked out of the Champions League, so he decided to do it after the Sporting Gijon victory.
"Did you see the pictures of his face in the last few minutes of the game? He was staring into space preparing what he was going to first tell the players, and then the world."
What say, if any, has Lionel Messi had?
GB: "Reports that Lionel Messi had a pivotal role in Enrique's decision are rubbish, absolute rubbish. He's had nothing to do with any decisions.
"What has happened is, as Pep Guardiola will tell you, three years is a long time at Barcelona. If Guardiola went back he would not have stayed for a fourth year at the Nou Camp as he did.
"Enrique is very aware of that. There is a lack of synergy with all the players. The message is not getting through to them and Enrique has decided to depart before having to recycle the side or making some big decisions, which he doesn't want to do."
Who is the perfect fit to be Barcelona's next manager?
GB: "It all starts with the profile the club wants and that is very clear. They would like, first of all, someone who knows the club well and ideally who has played at Barcelona and understands the club well.
"Then they want someone who can manage the big stars at the club, someone who is strong enough to start the recycling of an ageing squad - mainly the top stars.
"They also require someone who can deal with the media, and of course who can respect the Barcelona DNA and style."
Who's top of Barca's wishlist?
GB: "Athletic Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde, whose contract at the San Mames Stadium expires at the end of the season, is the top priority. Even ahead of Jorge Sampaoli. Those are the two big favourites.
"Valverde fits all of the above and what he has done at Bilbao is amazing.
Would Valverde suit Barca?
Why Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde could be the right man to replace Luis Enrique
"However, he has said no to the job twice. To say no a third time would be very difficult and with his contract up at the end of the season the timing is good too.
"Sampaoli, who has been promoting himself with idea of potential getting the Barcelona job, fits the style required by the fans, but there are doubts about his strong personality.
"The Barca board are a little bit scared because he's left wing, he is very open about his ideals and speaks his mind and likes his rock and roll, which tell you a lot about the character. These are things that do not fit fully with what this Barcelona's board expect of the coach. But he ticks many other boxes
Who else has been linked with the job?
GB: "As well as Valverde and Sampaoli, you have other names linked to the job like Laurent Blanc, Juan Carlos Unzue, Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. However, they do not tick all the boxes and Barcelona will talk to Valverde first."
The Barca board are a little bit scared because he's left wing, he is very open about his ideals and speaks his mind and likes his rock and roll, which tell you a lot about the character. These are things that do not fit fully with what this Barcelona's board expect of the coach.
Why is Mauricio Pochettino not being mentioned more?
GB: "There's no doubt that Pochettino is one of the top manager's in the world. He is maximising the potential of a Tottenham side that until very recently was ninth in the Premier League in terms of wages. He's a top coach, who has a few admirers at the Nou Camp. I just feel Valverde is ahead of the Spurs boss because of the profile Barca are looking for. They are looking for someone who has been at the club already and that hands the Athletic boss the advantage over someone like Pochettino."
What about Barcelona legend Ronald Koeman?
GB: "The Everton manager is certainly being considered. His name has certainly popped up in conversations surrounding the list of candidates. I just feel his managerial career so far hasn't really impressed the board at Barcelona. I've heard some of them say that if he had been winning things in the big leagues, if he wins at Everton, if he's done better at Valencia, they seem to find a lot of excuses not to put him at the top of the list."
Any chance of an Arsene Wenger approach?
GB: "I feel Barcelona are not fully aware of the amazing job Arsene Wenger has done at Arsenal. They only see results and titles from the last decade and have not considered him for the job.
"I do not think he represents the Barcelona style, which has moved on a lot since the days of Guardiola, but he could be a good representative of the club in many other ways if he fancied it, which he says he does not. His time has passed for that kind of role at Barcelona."
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