The manager’s seat at the Camp Nou may be one of the most prestigious roles to fill in world football, but it is also one of the most tiring, apparently.
In 2012, after four years at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola said he would need a year’s sabbatical after leaving the club with 13 trophies. “I’m drained and I need time to fill up,” he said.
Fast forward five years, and Luis Enrique’s resignation echoed similar feelings. Enrique, who has won eight trophies in three seasons so far at Barcelona, announced the decision Wednesday night after watching his side beat Sporting Gijon 6-1. “I need to rest. That’s the main reason why I am not going to continue,” he told reporters.
And the next man to take the touchline in Catalonia certainly has a tough job on his hands, with the club heading towards a transition of power. Lionel Messi is heading toward the twilight years of his career, as too is Iniesta, while La Liga is gaining in competitiveness; Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are closing the gap on Barca and Real Madrid.
Here, Newsweek looks at five possible candidates to succeed Enrique:
The hottest property in Spanish football at the moment. Having lost Unai Emery to Paris Saint Germain in the summer, Sevilla managed to find a man who could continue Emery’s impressive work; he won three consecutive Europa Leagues with Sevilla.
Sampaoli, the first foreign coach at Sevilla in almost 20 years, has guided the club to third in the La Liga table, five points off leader Barcelona with a game in hand. The players have bought into his energy, and his attacking prowess has drawn plaudits from the rest of Europe. Sampaoli is said to have been one of the top contenders for the Chelsea job last summer.
But Sampaoli’s CV is missing one element Barcelona frequently looks for. For almost a decade the Catalan club has appointed managers with experience of playing or working at the Camp Nou before becoming head coach; they know how the club works, what to expect from the board and fans.
Cue Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman spent six years as a player at the Camp Nou, from 1989 through 1995, where he won 10 trophies under manager Johan Cruyff in the famous “Dream Team.” Three years after leaving the club, he returned for a place in the dugout as assistant to Louis van Gaal.
Koeman has managed to build a successful coaching career in English football, guiding Southampton to its highest ever finish and points total before taking over at Everton last summer. The 53-year-old already has experience of managing in the Spanish La Liga, but lasted just six months at Valencia after the club slipped to 15th in the table. He did lead the club to the Copa del Rey title, however.
Another member of the Barcelona alumni, and a teammate of Koeman in Cruyff’s “Dream Team.” Laudrup has also managed in the Spanish La Liga and English Premier League. The Dane impressed at Getafe in 2007, taking the club to the Copa del Rey final and UEFA Cup quarter final, and then at Mallorca in 2010, lifting the team away from relegation.
The success in Spain and attractive style of play Laudrup’s teams produced saw Swansea City appoint him as manager in 2012. Laudrup left his mark over the two years he was in south Wales, winning the club its first major piece of silverware, with the League Cup.
Since then, the 52-year-old has been working in Qatar, as manager of Lekhwiya and then Al Rayyan. This movement away from European football may be a concern for the Barcelona hierarchy.
He says no. He says he wants to stay at Arsenal. But, with growing discontent toward the Frenchman as his contract runs out at the end of the season, Wenger may be tempted should he be forced out of the Emirates Stadium.
The attractive style of football Wenger’s Arsenal has played over the last two decades fits with the Barcelona ethos. What would be an issue, however, is the lack of silverware. Wenger has not won a league title in more than a decade, with two FA Cups being the only additions to the trophy cabinet in 11 years.
One of the traits Barcelona has shown in recent years when appointing a first team coach is to promote from within the club. Guardiola and Enrique both spent time leading the second team in Catalonia, so Barcelona may consider the current man, Gerard Lopez.
Lopez developed through the club’s famous La Masia academy and played 123 times, which included winning the La Liga title in 2005. The Spanish midfielder was also part of the Valencia side that came runner-up to Real Madrid in the Champions League final in 2000.
Lack of experience hasn’t concerned the club before, and Lopez’s team is currently leading the Segunda B.Try Newsweek: Subscription offers