In the wake of Barcelona manager Luis Enrique announcing his decision to leave the club at the end of the season, I’m going to look back at his spell at the Camp Nou and the possible candidates to succeed him.
Luis Enrique has enjoyed a successful spell at the Catalan club, despite Barcelona’s high standards. He joined from fellow Spanish team Celta Vigo in 2014 and has led them to two La Liga titles, two Copa Del Rey’s, the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup.
The rumours circulating Enrique’s future have been lingering for some time and the news was expected to emerge before the end of the season. He announced his decision to leave the club after Barcelona’s 6-1 win over Sporting Gijon, which sent them one-point ahead of Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table.
Barcelona have a recent history enriched with success and glory under the guidance of Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola, Tito Villanova and Luis Enrique. This suggests they will be studying their options extremely carefully in their search for a new manager.
The route to success for Barcelona has been perfectly judged, carefully planned and intensely executed. The use of their famous academy La Masia and the introduction of their “tiki-taka” style, which has worked so effectively, will have to be utilized and endorsed by the incoming manager.
Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli is currently the favourite to take over at the beginning of next season. The former Chilean manager has guided Sevilla into third place and led them into the La Liga title race.
Pep Guardiola is currently 20/1 to return to Barcelona, although that is incredibly unlikely due to the fact that he only joined Manchester City in the summer. Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino and Everton manager and former Barcelona defender Ronald Koeman are ahead of Guardiola in the best odds list for the next manager.
Luis Enrique and Barcelona
Luis Enrique joined Barcelona in 2014, despite never winning a major trophy during his managerial career at the time. He’d previously managed the Barcelona B team until he left to take over at Italian Serie A giants AS Roma.
He went onto manage Celta Vigo but had hardly established himself as a high-profile manager when Barcelona selected him to take charge at the club. His links with the youth set-up was the likeliest factor to have triggered Barcelona’s interest in the Spaniard.
Barcelona normally like to stick close to home when appointing managers, which is why Enrique was considered due to the fact that he also played for the club during his playing career. They also did this with Pep Guardiola, who managed the B team before being promoted to the senior side.
Barca won the treble in his first season at Camp Nou, winning the La Liga title, Copa Del Rey and Champions League. He formed MSN (Messi, Suarez and Neymar) when he signed Luis Suarez from Liverpool for £75 million in 2014.
It was a controversial decision at the time due to the biting incident in the 2014 World Cup when Suarez bit Italian defender Chiellini. Despite being banned until 26 October, Suarez scored 25 goals in all competitions by the end of the 2014/15 season.
Enrique also had to deal with the retirement of Carles Puyol and the departures of Alexis Sanchez, Victor Valdes and Cesc Fabregas. He began to build a new generation and replaced the departing players effectively. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen joined from Borussia Monchengladbach, Ivan Rakitic left Sevilla for Barca and as noted above, Luis Suarez also made the switch from the Premier League to La Liga.
Barcelona won the title by two points and only conceded 21 goals, which was fewer than any other team in the 2014/15 season. Overall, Barca won 30 of their 38 games and only tasted defeat on four occasions, most notably in Enrique’s first El Clasico as a manager.
They avoided Real Madrid in the final of the Copa Del Rey and beat Athletic Bilbao in the final in May. They followed their two domestic successes with European glory by beating Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
Luis Enrique also cleverly planned Xavi’s replacement in advance, with Rakitic joining Barcelona just one season before Barca legend Xavi announced his departure to Quatrain side Al-Sadd.
Barca won back-to-back league titles under Enrique when they clinched the La Liga title in the 2015/16 season. They also enjoyed an incredible 4-0 win against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, only to lose the reverse fixture towards the end of the season.
Although they won the Copa Del Rey once again, questions were asked when they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals. Their fiercest rivals Real Madrid ultimately went onto win the Champions League, which further fuelled the fans frustration.
Enrique’s men started the season in an underwhelming fashion, suffering embarrassing defeats to Alaves and Celta Vigo. Meanwhile, Real Madrid enjoyed a record breaking unbeaten run and further enhanced their chances of winning the title.
Fortunately, the ball is currently in Barcelona’s court due to Real’s poor run of form in recent matches. Barcelona have won their last five games in La Liga, which has led to them leaping ahead of Real Madrid at the top of the table, despite their rivals having a game in hand.
The Champions League defeat is likely to have been weighing heavily on Enrique’s mind. The defending La Liga champions embarrassingly slumped to a 4-0 hammering by French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
Enrique has had his ups and downs during his managerial tenure at Barcelona but overall he’s brought even more success to FC Barcelona. Hopefully for Barca fans, he won’t be making the switch to Real Madrid, as he did as a player in reverse…
Who’s next in line at Barcelona?
Jorge Sampaoli – Sevilla
Jorge Sampaoli spent the early stages of his managerial career managing clubs in South America, mainly in Chile. This led to the former Newell’s Old Boys youth player taking charge of the Chile National Team, who he took to the 2014 World Cup and won the Copa America with in 2015.
The Argentine played as a defensive midfielder during his playing career but was unable to make a senior appearance due to injury. Sampaoli joined Sevilla in the summer and has guided them into third place, closely behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in the title race.
His most poignant victory during his tenure at Sevilla was their famous win over Real Madrid in January. Jovetic scored in second half stoppage time to end Real Madrid’s Spanish record 40-match unbeaten run.
Sevilla play high-pressing football under Sampaoli, playing with two attacking full-backs. This requires an incredible amount of energy and stamina due to the high tempo his teams play at. This suggests Barcelona would be a good fit for the Argentine coach, who is seriously making an impression in the Spanish La Liga.
Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham Hotspur
Mauricio Pochettino has previously been linked with the managerial post at Barcelona in the early stages of the season. Moving to Barcelona will see him to return to the Spanish La Liga, with a three-year spell at Espanyol kicking off his managerial career.
Pochettino has made his name in the Premier League with Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur. The Argentine inspired Southampton to a strong conclusion to the 2014/15 season with wins over Liverpool and Chelsea.
He led them to an 8th place finish in the Premier League in his first full season at St Marys’. This was Southampton’s highest league finish since the 1989/90 season and they also recorded their highest amount of points in a single season in the Premier League era.
He moved to Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning of the 2014/15 season and started to build a promising young generation at White Hart Lane. He plays with a high-pressing style and is also likely to endorse the qualities of Barcelona’s youth system.
Pochettino has helped build a very strong Tottenham team, which includes the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. He guided Spurs to Champions League qualification last season for the first time since 2011.
Ronald Koeman – Everton
Ronald Koeman left Barcelona as a club legend and struck a famous free-kick in the 1992 Champions League final to lead them to their first ever European Cup. Under Johan Cruyff, Koeman helped continue his philosophy when Cruyff left the club.
Koeman has a very strong managerial CV, with spells at top clubs such as Ajax, Valencia, Benfica, Southampton and Everton. The former Barcelona centre-back was also assistant manager at the Camp Nou in 2000.
The Dutchman currently manages Everton, who he joined from Southampton in the summer. Koeman helped produce the next crop of young players at Southampton and is also shrewd in the transfer market.
His first season at Everton has been inconsistent and disappointing, which may sway Barcelona’s interest towards another manager. He understands the history of Barcelona and the club’s philosophy, which still makes him a potential target.
Laurent Blanc – No Current Club
Laurent Blanc is the most prolific and established managers highly linked with Barcelona. Arsene Wenger is also on the odds list but Blanc is backed higher to replace Enrique in the summer.
The Frenchman managed the France National Team between 2010-2012 and finished in the quarter-finals at Euro 2012. Prior to his spell with France, Blanc miraculously guided Bordeaux to the French Ligue 1 title and also reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Blanc went onto enjoy a successful spell with Paris Saint-Germain, in which he won three consecutive French Ligue 1 titles. He’s also been awarded the French Ligue 1 Manager of the Year award on two occasions in 2008 and 2015.
The 51-year-old also had a very good playing career both domestically and on the international stage. This included spells at Barcelona and Manchester United and triumphs with France in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.