Club legend Xavi is the favourite to replace Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, but Belgium’s Roberto Martinez and ex-Chelsea boss Antonio Conte are also in the frame… so, who will the club go for to get them out of the mire?
- Barcelona are on the lookout for a new manager after sacking Ronald Koeman
- Iconic former midfielder Xavi is the bookies’ favourite to replace him in the role
- Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has also been linked, as has Antonio Conte
- Sportsmail assesses the top options to fill the hotseat at the Nou Camp next
Barcelona have finally swung the axe on Ronald Koeman and one of the most coveted jobs in world football is up for grabs once again.
The Nou Camp hotseat is always a prestigious one but the job on offer will be vastly different to previous years after the departure of Lionel Messi and with the club in financial turmoil.
That lack of stability might put a few coaches off the role but there is still enough quality and talent in the squad to work with, including rising stars Eric Garcia, Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi.
Sportsmail takes a look through the top contenders to succeed Koeman as Barcelona look to rise through the rubble of a tulmultuous 18 months.
Barcelona are on the hunt for a new boss after president Joan Laporta sacked Ronald Koeman
Xavi Hernandez – 1/4
Current side: Al-Sadd
Now this appointment would be a real crowd pleaser, but would it be a real game changer to galvanise this struggling side?
Xavi has been installed as the leading favourite with Betfair to take over the reins at the Nou Camp in what would be his first major role of his management career following two years with Qatari side Al-Sadd.
The legendary midfielder has been earmarked as a boss of the future by Barca’s directors for some time, but there has been a waiting game to ensure he took over when he was ready.
Previously president Joan Laporta insisted it was not the right moment, but Sportsmail now understands both parties now believe the time could be right to save the season and build around the young players that have emerged in the last 12 months. The club has reportedly held talks with their former player over the job and Spanish media have claimed a deal has already been struck.
Iconic former midfielder Xavi Hernandez is the leading favourite and is already in talks
Xavi has impressed with Qatari side Al-Sadd and is said to be keen to take the Barcelona post
Xavi has earned respect in Qatar – even though coaching a team in LaLiga would be a considerable step up in quality – and has won four trophies during his two year spell in charge.
He has long been dreaming of a fairytale return to Barca and did nothing to dispel the rumours earlier this month.
‘Any offer will be evaluated and then a decision will be made,’ he said when asked about a possible offer from the club.
‘I don’t know where my future will take me, but I’m open to anything.’
Roberto Martinez – 7/1
Current side: Belgium
Martinez has been linked with the Barca job ever since Koeman started coming under pressure, with many admiring his attractive style with the Belgium national team during his five years in charge.
The Spaniard has rebuilt his reputation in the game since being sacked by Everton in 2016 and has steered Belgium to the top of FIFA’s world rankings.
But some Barca fans might be concerned that he has been unable to win a trophy with the team despite possessing some of the biggest talents in the game – including Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.
Belgium boss Martinez has batted away speculation linking him with the job at the Nou Camp
Martinez was quizzed over the possibility of taking over at Barca but played things coy – insisting he was focused on his current job.
‘I haven’t really thought about it. I have been thinking about the Nations League for a year and a half and that is what worries me now. My opinion would be quite misaligned.’
And when asked if he was flattered to be an option for Barcelona, the former Everton and Wigan boss added: ‘Look, I’ve been away from home for many years.
His team are ranked first in FIFA’s rankings but he has been unable to win a trophy with the side
‘There are not too many fans who know about my career, or that I was seven years in a row in the Premier. This makes me laugh. I think there was a change in the 2018 World Cup.
‘We had the affection of Spanish fans, I noticed it right away. For me, it was a great illusion. From there, the coaches are always in the rumors.
‘When the team wins you dream for other projects and when the team loses you are on the verge of cessation. You get used to it and you live outside of all this.’
Marcelo Gallardo – 10/1
Current side: River Plate
The Argentine is winning a legion of fans for his work with River Plate – where he has been since 2014 in his home country. Now could finally be the time for him to step up to one of the most high-profile jobs in football.
The 45-year-old has won a raft of trophies with the Buenos Aires outfit, including the Copa Libertadores twice and the Copa Argentine three times.
He has displayed great loyalty to the club where he enjoyed two separate spells as a player and insisted this month he had no intention of ending his seven year tenure, stressing it has ‘never crossed his mind’ to take another job.
River Plate Marcelo Gallardo has been linked with the job after earning a host of admirers
He has won a number of trophies with the Argentine outfit and has been in charge since 2014
‘I am focused on the Superclasico and also everyone knows that my thought and my decision is to fulfill the contract with River,’ he said.
‘I have no reason to be distracted by other things and thoughts of others. I have a contract and a commitment to River.
‘I want to continue connected with what it means to be River’s coach and it never crossed my mind to leave the club.’
When pressed on whether he had been approached, he added: ‘If they contacted me or not, what’s the point of revealing it?
‘The only thing I can say is that my goal is to end the contract with the club. Then we will see, but my focus is on the game against Boca.’
Antonio Conte – 12/1
Current side: Unattached
Conte is waiting in the wings looking for his next role after walking out on Inter Milan – just weeks after inspiring them to their first Serie A title in a decade.
The Italian is a highly-regarded coach with a winning mentality and proven track record of bringing silverware wherever he goes – but the reason he left the San Siro was because of financial constraints, meaning a move to the Nou Camp might not be the biggest pull for a boss looking to splash the cash.
Barcelona had to look for bargains in the summer and were only able to bring in free transfers – including Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero – and Conte would be hoping to make big-money signings to bring the club back to the big time.
Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is looking for his next role but could be put off by the current financial crisis ongoing at Barca
The Manchester United job could soon become available and that might be a more attractive proposition given that the Red Devils were able to splash out £73million on Jadon Sancho, £42m on Raphael Varane and pay Cristiano Ronaldo’s lucrative £385,000 a week salary.
The former Chelsea boss was strongly linked with the job at Tottenham before pulling out over concerns about their ambitions and project, as well as fears he would not be given the budget to strengthen the squad. The ambition is certainly there from Barca, but with the funds looking shaky this might not be the job for him.
Oscar Garcia – 14/1
Current side: Reims
Remember the former Brighton and Watford coach? You might be surprised to see Garcia being mentioned as one of the candidates but the Spaniard actually started his career at the Nou Camp, playing 69 times for the club.
Garcia, who is now with Ligue 1 side Reims, also enjoyed a two-year stint in charge with Barca’s Under-18 side from 2010 to 2012, so the club are familiar with his talents.
He used his experiences with the club’s La Masia squad to springboard himself to a job with Maccabi Tel Aviv, winning the league title in his first season in charge and quickly earning a move to Brighton.
Oscar Garcia – currently with Reims – is one of the contenders to take over having played for the team and coached their Under-18 side
After one season and failing in the play-off semi-finals, he moved to the Hornets – but had to step down after just one month due to health issues having suffered with chest pains.
Having made a recovery, he spent two season with Red Bull Salzburg, winning the league and cup double back to back before spells with Saint Etienne, Olympiakos and Celta Vigo in 2019-20. He led the team to safety in his first season, but was sacked after around a year.
This summer he was appointed Reims boss, with his side currently languishing outside the relegtion zone.
Erik Ten Hag – 16/1
Current side: Ajax
The Dutch coach who is winning plaudits across the game for his eye-catching style of play with Ajax, ten Hag has been strongly linked with roles in the Premier League, including Manchester United, Newcastle and Tottenham.
At 16/1, he is not seen as one of the stronger candidates to take charge but knows how to play in the tiki-taka style Barcelona have become famed for and would also be reunited with his former central midfield playmaker Frenkie de Jong.
Fellow countrymen Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong are also on the books at Barca and he would be a good fit – although only signed a new contract with Ajax in the summer having masterminded a second Eredivisie title last season.
Dutchman Erik ten Hag plays an attractive style with Ajax and has been linked with some of the top roles in the game
He has spent the last four years with the side and famously guided them to the semi finals of the Champions League in 2018-19.
Sportsmail understands Newcastle have made an offer to ten Hag that would see him become the third-highest paid boss in the Premier League behind Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
An offer that lucrative, as well as the chance to build a talented squad with the massive budget from the club’s new Saudi owners, may be too good to turn down.
He is being courted by Newcastle but only recently signed a new deal with Ajax in the summer
Ralf Rangnick, the former Schalke and Leipzig boss, appears to be linked to every major role in football and he is rated at 14/1 to take over, while former Germany boss Joachim Low is still looking for his next challenge after ending his 16-year reign with the national team and is at 19/1.
Andre Villas-Boas is unattached and available after leaving Marseille and is at 22/1, although Barca may steer clear of the Portuguese boss despite learning from their former boss Sir Bobby Robson, with the former Chelsea and Spurs boss being suspended by Marseille having clashed with the board.
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa is rated also rated at 22/1 after impressing with his high-press, high intensity team at Elland Road, as is former Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo despite struggling to impress in his first role in Turin, where he was sacked after just one season in charge.
BARCA MANAGER CANDIDATES
Xavi – 1/4
Roberto Martinez – 7/1
Marcelo Gallardo – 10/1
Antonio Conte – 12/1
Oscar Garcia – 14/1
Ralf Rangnick – 14/1
Erik Ten Hag – 16/1
Joachim Low – 19/1
Andre Villas-Boas – 22/1
Marcelo Bielsa – 22/1
Albert Capellas Herms – 22/1
Andrea Pirlo – 22/1
Domenec Torrent – 22/1
Thierry Henry – 22/1
All odds courtesy of Betfair
Source: Read Full Article