Over the course of three years, Luis Enrique has transformed F.C Barcelona into the most powerful team in Europe. Many wondered if there would ever come a time when Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, which doubled as the rise of Lionel Messi, could be recreated. After the disastrous seasons that followed his departure, the world thought that Barca’s golden age was over. But all of this changed with the introduction of Luis “Lucho” Enrique as manager of F.C Barcelona. In his first season at Barcelona, Enrique led the Basque men to an international treble, a feat only accomplished before by Guardiola’s Barcelona.
The 2016-2017 season marked the start of Enrique’s third and final season at F.C Barcelona. In just 2 seasons, Lucho was able to win eight major trophies, and he still has his eye on another international treble this season. Nothing could characterize Barcelona’s miraculous run under Enrique better than Barcelona’s historic 6-1 triumph at the Camp Nou against PSG. The past two years of magic leave one question in the mind of Barca fans and soccer fans all around the world: What will become of F.C Barcelona after the retirement of the glorious Luis Enrique? Apart from the emerging uncertainty stemming from the departure of Enrique, many sources are insinuating that Messi is having some issues with re-signing his contract with the club. From cryptic messages to the club President at times to his complete silence regarding the issue at other times, many fans of Barcelona are fretting the possible exit of the best soccer player in the world.
Who will take the reins of F.C Barcelona?
This is a question on the mind of all Barca fans, but one with no definitive answer just yet. After their victory against Sporting Gijon on March 1, 2017, Enrique announced his departure from the club and ever since, the pundits have been hard at work trying to predict the next manager at Barcelona. Possible candidates include Laurent Blanc, Jorge Sampaoli and Ronald Koeman, among others. Of these possible candidates, Jorge Sampaoli of Seville has emerged as the heavy favorite for taking up the reins at F.C Barcelona.
For most Barcelona fans, Jorge Sampaoli would seem like an outsider. His connections to the club are far and thin. He is an Argentine national and therefore has familiarity with star defender Javier Mascherano and living legend Lionel Messi. What makes Jorge Sampaoli such an enticing pick for the hot seat at Barcelona are his unparalleled credentials. In 2015, Sampaoli took the Chilean national team to the Copa America trophy for the first time in their history. Further, in just his first season at Sevilla, Sampaoli made them a fiercer contender for La Liga and took Sevilla to the brink of the Champions League quarterfinal. A feat which could have only been a dream just five years ago for Sevilla has felt like a reality under the management of Sampaoli. The only catch is the fact that Sampaoli has just signed on with Sevilla, and being that it is only his first season managing the club, it may take the European giants some convincing to bring Jorge Sampaoli on board so quickly as their next manager.
Laurent Blanc is another manager who fits the manager mold at Camp Nou. Blanc spent some of his soccer career playing for Barcelona in the 90s as a defender. He is one of the most respected managers across the globe and would certainly be qualified to take up the hot seat at F.C Barcelona. Starting off his career as a manager, Blanc led French club Bordeaux to a league title in 2009 and managed the Paris Saint-Germain team that won 11 trophies in a span of just three seasons. This makes Blanc one of the most qualified people to take over as manager of Barcelona. Furthermore, he is currently out of a job, making it easier for him to accept the offer.
Another option that Barcelona may consider is Ronald Koeman. He is a great managerial talent, but is not the most likely option for the Spanish giants. Koeman is a familiar face at Barcelona. He played for them in the 90s and even served as an assistant for quite some time. He coached Valencia to a Copa Del Rey title and has brought on prominent changes at both Southampton and current club Everton. Though Koeman is a worthy candidate, his lack of champions league experience and lack of credentials with bigger-name clubs will ultimately make him a less desirable option for taking over as manager of F.C Barcelona.
Again with the Messi hoopla?
It seems as though every season, Barcelona fans are barraged with breaking news stories claiming that superstar Lionel Messi will be leaving their club, usually with little truth to these rumors. However, this time around we see a very different attitude from the Argentine star and the club itself. The club knows the value of Messi and understands that their domestic and international level of supremacy cannot be met without the magic of the maestro Messi. One may then ask themself, “why then would Barca even risk having Messi disgruntled regarding his contract?”. After scoring a late goal in a 5-0 rout against Celta Vigo, Messi made a gesture to the stands in the form of a phone call. Many analysts and football pundits have found this to be a sign to club President Josep Maria Bartomeu. Throughout his presidency at Barcelona, Baromeu has been subject to much dispute with Messi regarding contract issues with the club. Many have begun to understand that Messi needs more support from the leadership at Barcelona.
Though Leo has dismissed his gesture as nothing more than a quirky celebration, many fans are wondering if their beloved “La Pulga” will abandon them at the end of the season. This seasonal concern by Barcelona fans has happened before, and looking at past trends and Messi’s faith towards F.C Barcelona, it can be concluded that he will not in fact be leaving Barcelona this Summer. Messi has spent his entire career and most of his life at Barcelona, and the club has become an integral part of his daily life and identity. At his stature and level, it is highly doubtful that Messi could be lured away from Barcelona by money. So rest assured Barcelona fans, the club will remain in good hands – for now.