Barcelona set sights on Luis Enrique & Martino to replace Vilanova

The Catalan club will appoint a successor to outgoing coach Tito Vilanova next week, with the former Blaugrana midfielder and the ex-Newell's boss the two preferred options
By Ben Hayward

Luis Enrique and Gerardo Martino have emerged as the two leading candidates to coach Barcelona next season following the departure of Tito Vilanova on health grounds.

The Catalans announced on Friday that Vilanova will step down with immediate effect to continue cancer treatment and club president Sandro Rosell revealed a successor will be appointed next week.

Luis Enrique, a Camp Nou great who scored 109 goals in 300 appearances for Barcelona and coached the club's B team between 2008 and 2011, is the Catalans' top target and TV3 claimed on Saturday that the Blaugrana were close to an agreement with Celta Vigo.

The former Spain star only signed with the Galician outfit this summer and Barca would need to pay around €3 million (£2.5m) in compensation to bring in the Asturian. It has also been claimed the Catalans could offer former Girona boss Rubi to Celta as a possible replacement for the 43-year-old.

However, the ex-Roma boss is thought to be uncomfortable at the prospect of leaving the Galicians so soon after agreeing to coach the club and Barca are looking at other alternatives, with former Paraguay and Newell's Old Boys boss Martino also in the frame.

The Argentine is on good terms with Lionel Messi and is the forward's first choice to replace Vilanova. According to Ole and Radio La Red, Barca's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta is set to fly to Argentina for talks with the Rosario-born coach on Monday.

Another former Newell's boss, Marcelo Bielsa, is also under consideration, along with ex-Barcelona midfielder and current Swansea manager Michael Laudrup and Athletic Bilbao trainer Ernesto Valverde.

Vilanova, meanwhile, will continue to work for the Catalan club on a part-time basis, although his exact role remains unclear at this stage.