Three Contenders to be the Next Barcelona Coach
11th January 2017. By Ryan Baldi.
After seeing their side slip to third in the table following a 1-1 draw with Villarreal at the weekend, many Barcelona fans are beginning to wonder if manager Luis Enrique is the right man to carry the team forward.
It may seem harsh to question a coach who won the treble in his first season in charge of the Catalan giants, before following that success up with a league and cup double last season. But, after a summer of heavy investment in the playing squad, Luis Enrique has too often been found wanting tactically — relying on the brilliance of Lionel Messi to drag his side out of the mire — while his team selections have often been confounding.
So with the possible exit of the former Roma and Celta Vigo boss at the end of the current campaign, rumours are already beginning to circulate over who will be brought in as his successor; here are the three leading candidates.
Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli, with his preference for an amorphous, back three-based system and emphasis on thrilling, attacking football, would be the number one choice for many Barca fans.
Since taking charge of the Europa League champions in the summer — replacing Unai Emery who’d left to join Paris Saint Germain — Sampaoli has taken La Liga by storm thanks to his idiosyncratic philosophy and his apparent ability to squeeze every last drop of potential from his players.
Eyebrows were raised when the Andalusians, who are always so savvy in the transfer market thanks to the frugality and diligent approach to scouting of sporting director Monchi, decided to take French midfielder Samir Nasri on loan from Manchester City.
Nasri had become unused and unwanted at City following several seasons of underperformance, but the 29-year-old has produced the form of his life at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan this term — Sampaoli has to take a lot of credit for that.
Another name familiar to Premier League followers will be that of Steven N’Zonzi, who had spells at Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City. The Frenchman joined Sevilla in the summer of 2015 and played a key role in last season’s continental success, but his game has been taken to a whole new level in the current campaign with the 28-year-old acting as the deep-lying playmaker and defensive shield in Sampoali’s system.
Tactically, the 56-year-old Argentinian coach has taken a lot of inspiration from Marcelo Bielsa, a cult hero among aficionados of the strategic and tactical aspects of football.
Sampaoli used many of Bielsa’s principles to achieve unprecedented success at Universidad de Chile before taking the reigns of the Chilean national team from Bielsa and guiding them to their first ever Copa America title.
If Sampaoli were to be appointed boss of Barcelona, his attacking ethos would fit in well with the Blaugrana’s long-established traditions.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino is another manager being mentioned as a potential future Barcelona boss.
The fact that the Argentinian played for and managed cross-city rivals Espanyol doesn’t appear to have harmed his chances of landing the top job at the Camp Nou. The stoic and studious Spurs man has impressed during his time at White Hart Lane and before that with Southampton, despite not having managed to bag a major trophy as yet.
Pochettino is another coach who has studied at the feet of Bielsa, having played under the veteran manager at Newell’s Old Boys and for the Argentinian national team in the early 2000s.
Though perhaps not quite as tactically adventurous as either Sampaoli or Bielsa, the 44-year-old does instruct his players to press relentlessly in high areas in a similar way to his two compatriots.
Pochettino’s ability to develop young players will also stand him in good stead should he be given the chance to manage Barca. Promoting youngsters from the club’s academy has always been something desired of Camp Nou bosses, and the success the Tottenham man has had with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier shows that he is prepared to put faith in budding stars while being patient with them, allowing them to grow.
For the time being, Pochettino is wholeheartedly committed to manifesting a genuine title challenge with Spurs. But if Barca came knocking, the prospect of working with the likes of Messi, Andres Iniesta and Neymar would surely be too tempting to resist.
After taking the reigns of Borussia Dortmund from Jurgen Klopp for the start of the 2015-16 season, 43-year-old German coach Thomas Tuchel has become regarded as perhaps the most sought-after young coach in the game.
The former Mainz boss conforms to the modern German footballing philosophy of pressing, work-rate and swift counter attacks, with Jurgen Klopp and Ralf Rangnick among his biggest influences.
But Tuchel is also a known disciple of Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola — who of course enjoyed tremendous success as both a player and coach at Barcelona — and mixes many of the Catalan tactician’s ideas and theories into his own philosophy.
Indeed, just weeks after having being confirmed as Dortmund manager in 2015, Tuchel and Guardiola, who was then in charge of bitter rivals Bayern Munich, secretly met to share their ideas and theories over dinner.
Like Pochettino, perhaps even more so than the Argentinian, Tuchel is a big believer in utilising young players and developing them into starts. This is perhaps as much down to Dortmund’s business model of buying young talent with high resale potential as any express desire on the coach’s behalf, but the Krumbach-born manager has shown himself to be willing and able to nurture prodigal talents.
This season Tuchel has channeled the raw gifts of French winger Ousmane Dembele into becoming one of the most thrilling and productive players in the Bundesliga, while fellow summer recruits Emre Mor, Raphael Guerreiro and academy products Christian Pulisic and Felix Passlack have also shone.
It’s highly likely that whichever managerial vacancy at a major club next pops up, Tuchel’s name will be on everyone’s lips in connection with the role. If Barca want him, they might have to move quickly.