Rumours Luis Enrique would leave Camp Nou this summer had been flying for a while but few expected the Coach to confirm them when he spoke to reporters after Barcelona routed Sporting Gijon in midweek.
“I can confirm that I won’t be Barca Coach next season. I’m not going to renew my contract at the end of the season,” Lucho said. “The time has come for the decision to be made.”
So with Enrique on his way out of La Blaugrana at the end of the season, Football Espana asked on Twitter who you thought should be his successor: Ernesto Valverde, Jorge Sampaoli, Eusebio Sacristan, the three names first touted, or someone else?
After Luis Enrique's surprise announcement last night, who do you think should replace him as #FCB Coach? And tell us why...— footballespana (@footballespana_) March 2, 2017
After more than 1,000 votes, Sevilla’s Sampaoli topped the poll with 63% of people backing the Argentine for the position, despite it already claimed the Barca board have doubts over the ex-Chile national team boss.
Sampaoli has though impressed in his short time at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, having been appointed last summer to replace Paris Saint-Germain-bound Unai Emery. Los Rojiblancos are currently third in the table, only two points adrift of Barca.
Of the three named contenders, Athletic Club’s Valverde, an ex-Barca striker, finished second in the voting, amid suggestions the Catalans want a Coach who understands the club. Indeed, Valverde was a member of Johan Cruyff’s fabled Dream Team and while Los Leones are somewhat off the pace this year, his work at San Mames is impressive on the whole.
Eusebio, another Dream Team representative and previously in charge of the club’s B team, found little support in our poll. Currently holding the bench at Real Sociedad, Eusebio has taken the Basques to La Liga’s top five and would continue the tradition of B team bosses getting the top job, after both Pep Guardiola and Enrique himself.
Of the other names suggested, Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger perhaps received the most support. The Frenchman’s preference for attractive football and working with young players on paper makes him a good fit for Barca, and the timing might work out too as speculation grows his long tenure with the Gunners is coming to a close.
But Wenger has distanced himself from the gossip and it remains to be seen if Arsenal can bring themselves to part with the man who rebuilt the club over the past two decades.
The likes of Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino have been thrown around as well but with Josep Maria Bartomeu saying an announcement won’t be made until July, Barca have time to weigh up all the options. Replacing Enrique, winner of two titles, the Champions League, the Club World Cup and a number of other trophies with the chance of more to come, will not be easy.