Next Barcelona manager: Who could replace Ernesto Valverde at the Nou Camp?Published on: May 29, 2019Author: Jamie Clark
Barcelona, in trophy terms at least, have gone backwards under Ernesto Valverde during his second season at the helm of the Catalan giants.
What’s the problem at the Nou Camp? A tactically conservative coach? An ageing squad? The truth is probably a but of both.
Two of Valverde’s predecessors, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, guided Barca to trebles. He took over from the latter knowing he could only match and not better that.
The strange thing about these last couple of years with Barcelona is it’s not their triumphs – notably finishing 19 points ahead of El Clasico enemies Real Madrid when retaining La Liga this term – that stand out but their losses.
If and when Valverde leaves the Nou Camp, his legacy isn’t doing the league and Copa del Rey double in his first season, it’s as the coach who allowed complacency to creep in.
You cannot imagine those Guardiola and Enrique treble vintages letting three-goal leads slip in European quarter and semi-finals. That happened on Valverde’s watch in consecutive campaigns.
Thoughts turn to the next Barcelona manager – not least because Valencia got the jump on his team and triumphed in the Copa del Rey final that brought the curtain down on the Spanish season.
Plenty of column inches have already been filled with speculation about the successor to Valverde, despite apparent backing from the board, so who could follow him at Barca?
Balaguer-born Roberto Martinez, or "Bobby Brown Shoes" to use his nickname earned at Everton, has spent the last three years coaching Belgium and stars of the European game like Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.
It was an interesting career move for a manager so relatively young to go into international football. Martinez cut his coaching teeth at Swansea City helping them into the Championship before joining Wigan Athletic.
His against all odds giant-killing of Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final with the Latics should be tempered by the fact just days later they were relegated from the Premier League.
Martinez played expansive football with Wigan even when that openness was a clear danger to their top flight status.
Nonetheless, his fine work there led Everton to come in for him when David Moyes moved to Manchester United. Under Moyes, the Toffees had been top eight Premier League material for several seasons.
Although Martinez steered them to fifth place in his debut campaign at Goodison Park, he couldn’t maintain them in such surroundings.
Looking back on his coaching career so far, Martinez has by and large been shrewd enough to know when to take a decent opportunity and move himself up the ladder.
His rejection of an approach from Aston Villa in June 2011 when ill health prevented Gerard Houllier from continuing as successor to Martin O’Neill is evidence of that.
While he has no formal ties to Barcelona, Martinez is a Catalan, fits the bill style wise and reportedly the top target to take over at the Nou Camp.
The only question is whether or not this is the right time to leave Belgium with Euro 2020 qualifying underway.
El Maestro as Racing Santander fans dubbed him, Quique Setien has just finished two very memorable seasons in charge of Seville side Real Betis during which he took them into Europe.
He had to make some big calls over senior players there. Late blooming forward Ruben Castro is something of a cult hero at Betis for his prolific exploits, twice firing the club back into La Liga during an era when they have very much been in the shadow of Sevilla.
Setien took the very bold decision to move him on. It was a gamble because Castro was still banging goals in for Betis despite being in his mid-30s.
That is the kind of call that a manager lives and dies by, but in this case a top six finish and Europa League football for this past season vindicated Setien. Similar ruthlessness regarding some of the senior players at Barca is needed.
We’re not talking about Lionel Messi here but strike partner Luis Suarez, midfield trio Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal and defender Gerard Pique make for an ageing spine that is in need of renewal.
As a free agent Setien will surely appeal to some of the Barcelona board because, unlike Martinez, no agreement over compensation is needed. His style of play is also in step with the Nou Camp blueprint.
Now aged 60 Setien has less time on his side to take on a top job, but is well-regarded in Spain for his steady ascent in coaching and surely won’t be out of work for long.
Juventus couldn’t really have done much more under Max Allegri except maybe win one of the two Champions League finals they reached during his five years with the Old Lady.
In each of his seasons in Turin, he has kept Juve well on top in Serie A. Under Allegri, a further four Coppa Italia triumphs were added to their list of honours.
He inherited a very good team from Antonio Conte when his predecessor left to take the national job, but has demonstrated an ability to rebuild while remaining domestically dominant.
Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Vidal, Kingsley Coman, Gianluigi Buffon and Alvaro Morata are just some of the big names that have left Juventus during Allegri’s tenure.
The acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Old Lady an obvious shot in the arm for this past season as they extended their run with the Scudetto to eight consecutive triumphs.
A new challenge is what Allegri needs and moving abroad is the only way he can do that. Going back to AC Milan probably shouldn’t appeal, while Conte is set to return to Italy with Inter.
If there is interest in Allegri from Barcelona, then it may stem from the fact that Juve knocked them out of the Champions League in the 2017 quarter-finals. The Old Lady won 3-0 in Turin before grinding out a stalemate in the Nou Camp.
That was during Enrique’s final season with Barca, but may have left an impression not least because of the lesson in defending received.
Allegri is an outsider to Spanish football though, and tactically pragmatic rather than a purist.
Netherlands national boss Ronald Koeman was linked with a return to the Nou Camp where he played so successfully when Enrique exited and will be so again.
The modern Dutch great was a prolific goalscorer as a defender and has held a string of top jobs since taking up coaching. He was Louis van Gaal’s assistant at Barcelona in the late 1990s, but hasn’t won a major trophy since 2008.
Koeman held nine roles in club management before answering his country’s call, including Eredivisie big three Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. He has coached in La Liga with Valencia and lifted the Copa del Rey there before being axed.
In more recent years, Koeman helped Southampton punch above their weight in the Premier League and then took over from Martinez at Everton.
Rebuilding the Netherlands after they failed to reach either Euro 2016 or the last World Cup is his current project.
Despite a contract through until 2022 with the Dutch FA, the lure of returning to Barca would surely be too great for Koeman to resist.
His managerial CV is far from flawless, but he is highly experienced and the link is a natural one.
That being said, it’s hard to see Koeman being the top choice for next Barcelona manager despite all his history with the club.
Bringing legends in to appease fans always comes with risks attached and significant compensation to buy out his contract would be needed.
How Arsenal manager Unai Emery has done in his first season at the Emirates as successor to Arsene Wenger will be judged on the outcome of the Europa League final.
If he does guide the Gunners to that European trophy at Chelsea’s expense, then the campaign will have been a success. This is because that opens up a backdoor route into the Champions League.
Emery certainly knows how to win the Europa League after steering Sevilla to a hat-trick of successes before leaving Spain for French heavyweights PSG. His fine work both at home and abroad makes him an outside contender for the Barcelona job.
Those exploits with Sevilla and in a previous role at Valencia proved Emery can cope in top jobs. He has plenty of experience of teams competing in Europe and La Liga, but does appear committed to the project at Arsenal.
As outsiders go, both he and Mauricio Pochettino – the coach of the Gunners’ North London rivals and Champions League finalists Tottenham – get mentions because of their past in Spain.
The next Barcelona manager probably won’t be from left field because the club like to have one of their own, or coaches who share core tactical philosophies synonymous with the Nou Camp and its traditions.