Lionel Messi wants to be coached by Marcelo Bielsa - here are the possible successors to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona

The Catalan coach remains coy over his future and has yet to commit to a fifth season at Camp Nou. So if he does decide to leave, who could possibly step in? investigates
By Ben Hayward

It seems like a dream job. Coaching Barcelona would surely be an attractive proposition for many a top coach; it is the chance to lead a team described as the best in history, an opportunity to work day in, day out with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta et al.

But Pep Guardiola will be a hard act to follow, to say the least.

In little over three years at Camp Nou after stepping up from Barca B, Guardiola has led the Catalan club to three La Liga titles, two Champions League crowns, two World Club Cups and 13 trophies out of a possible 16 in total. So whoever follows will be under huge pressure to deliver more of the same.

Guardiola has been given all the time he needs by the Barcelona board and, given his long-time association and affiliation with the Catalan club (which he represented for over 20 years as a player in the youth and senior teams as well), he is unlikely to leave them in the lurch.

However, Pep is visibly tired by the pressures of the post and has also been rocked this season by the illness to his right-hand man, Tito Vilanova. So if he does decide that he simply needs a break, who will Barca turn to in the summer? looks at the possible candidates.


Age: 56

Nationality: Argentine

Current club: Athletic Bilbao

Previous sides: Newell's, Espanyol, Argentina, Chile

Philosophy: High-tempo, attacking football

Favoured formation: 3-3-1-3

Chances of replacing Pep:

Bielsa fact: The coach gave Barca's Javier Mascherano his international debut with Argentina

When Pep Guardiola had decided that he wanted to become a coach, one of the trainers he turned to for advice was Marcelo Bielsa. The Argentine invited Pep to his home in Rosario and the two talked football for 11 hours after a barbecue.

Guardiola is a huge admirer of Bielsa, his rival in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao later this season, while Messi has claimed that he would like to play under his compatriot, but El Loco is a man of convictions and he will be reluctant to leave Athletic so early into his time in Bilbao.

In terms of philosophy, he appears ideal, but he perhaps isn't quite the winner that Barca will need as they look to replace their greatest-ever coach. As things stand, however, he is the best-placed boss to step into the breach - at least this summer.


Age: 41

Nationality: Spanish

Current club: Roma

Previous sides: Barca B

Philosophy: High-tempo, Barca-style football

Favoured formation: 4-3-3

Chances of replacing Pep:

Luis Enrique fact: As a player, Luis Enrique made 300 appearances for Barca, scoring 109 goals

Luis Enrique, like Guardiola before him, has been groomed as a Barcelona coach of the future. But while Pep stepped up from Barca B as Frank Rijkaard's reign came to a disappointing end, the Asturian coach saw the path to the first team blocked by Guardiola himself following two successful seasons with the youth side.

Having taken Barca B as far as he could (by winning promotion to the Segunda Division), Luis Enrique sought to broaden his coaching horizons by moving to Serie A side Roma, and, despite a slow start, the former Spain midfielder is finally stamping his mark on the capital club.

Like Bielsa, he has just embarked on a new project and will be loath to leave after a single season in Serie A. Roma have already said that he won't be going anywhere, so that is possibly that. He seems almost certain to coach Barca in future, however, so should Pep - as many expect - stay for another season, he is likely to be the favourite to take over in 2013.


Age: 38

Nationality: Spanish

Current club: Barca youth coach

Previous sides: Catalunya (assistant)

Philosophy: The Barca way

Favoured formation: 4-3-3

Chances of replacing Pep:

Oscar fact: Oscar and brother Roger, also a midfielder, played together at Barca and Espanyol

A little-known but intriguing option, Oscar Garcia is a former Barcelona midfielder and team-mate of Guardiola who has impressed as coach of the junior sides.

Oscar came through the youth ranks alongside his brother Roger and enjoyed mild success at the Catalan club as an attacking midfielder, before leaving to join Valencia and later Espanyol.

As coach, he assisted Johan Cruyff with the Catalan national side before returning to Barca to train the youngsters in 2010, a post which he is said to be leaving this summer.

So can he make the step up to the first team? Recently asked if his former team-mate could make it to the top, Xavi's response was a resounding yes. But it seems too much, too soon for Oscar. Then again, many said the same about Pep in 2008 ...


Age: 48

Nationality: Spanish

Current club: Olympiacos

Previous sides:
Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Villarreal

Philosophy: Attacking

Favoured formation: 4-1-4-1

Chances of replacing Pep:

Valverde fact: As a player, Valverde was signed by Johan Cruyff but featured very little in two seasons

Whenever a list of possible Barca coaches is made, Ernesto Valverde is on it. The former Espanyol coach played for Barcelona under Johan Cruyff, but was restricted to only a handful of games over two seasons and ended up complaining: "I don't know why he signed me."

Valverde went on to enjoy a successful stay at Athletic Bilbao and began his coaching career at the Basque outfit, managing the club's youth team before taking charge of the senior side and winning over fans with his attacking philosophy.

A successful spell at Espanyol followed as he led Barca's city rivals to the Uefa Cup final before things turned sour due to dressing-room unrest. A league and cup double at Olympiakos came next and after a disappointing few months at Villarreal, he returned to Greece to enjoy more success with the Piraeus outfit.

Shortlisted as a replacement for Rijkaard, he seems less likely to be considered now.


Age: 46

Nationality: Spanish

Current club: Currently out of work

Previous sides: Too many to list here

Philosophy: Just like Pep's

Favoured formation: 4-3-3

Chances of replacing Pep:

Lillo fact: Pep Guardiola ended his playing career in Mexico at Dorados, where he played under Lillo

About the nearest thing you will find to Pep Guardiola, Juanma Lillo is a footballing father to the Barcelona boss and good friend of the Catalan coach.

Lillo took Guardiola to Mexico as a player and the two would talk football for hours and hours, sharing a philosophy for the game they adore. Lillo was also Pep's choice as coach as the Barca boss supported Joan Bassat as presidential candidate in 2003. But Joan Laporta won and Rijkaard was appointed instead.

Lillo has coached a handful of clubs, including Salamanca, Oviedo, Zaragoza and, latterly, Real Sociedad and Almeria. But, while he shares a footballing philosophy with Guardiola, his record is much more mediocre and he cannot be described as a winner, having suffered relegation with several sides and been dismissed from most of his jobs for poor results. Once the youngest-ever Primera Division boss, at the age of 29, his last match as a coach was an 8-0 defeat at home to Guardiola's Barca while at Almeria. After that, he will need a glowing recommendation from Pep, but he will be under consideration and cannot be ruled out.


Age: 62

Nationality: French

Current club: Arsenal

Previous sides: Nancy-Lorraine, Monaco, Grampus Eight

Philosophy: Barca-esque pretty passing

Favoured formation: 4-5-1

Chances of replacing Pep:

Wenger fact: The Frenchman's side lost the 2006 Champions League final to Barcelona in Paris

Without a trophy at Arsenal since 2005, Arsene Wenger is no longer considered among the game's elite coaches, but the Frenchman's philosophy does fit in with that of Barcelona and he may decide to move on this summer following several difficult seasons at the north London club.

It is thought, however, that Wenger will move to an upstairs role when his spell as coach at Arsenal does eventually draw to a close, and the 62-year-old is known to be keen on luring Guardiola to the Emirates Stadium as coach in future.

So could it happen the other way around? Wenger would certainly get the best out of Barca's brilliant array of forwards, while he has an ally at Camp Nou in Cesc Fabregas, but his recent record is unlikely to impress the powers that be in the Blaugrana boardroom, and he looks set to stay at Arsenal for life - even if not as manager.


Age: 47

Nationality: Danish

Current club: Currently out of work

Previous sides: Brondby, Getafe, Spartak Moscow, Mallorca

Philosophy: Attacking football with width

Favoured formation: 4-2-3-1

Chances of replacing Pep: 4/10

Laudrup fact: Laudrup returns regularly to Camp Nou as a commentator and remains popular at the club

Former players are usually in the mix when clubs seek a new coach and, like Oscar and Luis Enrique, Laudrup is another alternative.

The Dane has already coached Getafe and Mallorca in the Primera Division, but has failed to convince at either and the jury is very much still out on his abilities as a manager.

Should Barca be left in the lurch by Guardiola and lacking viable options, he may be seen as a short-term successor to the Catalan coach, but he will be well down the list of possible replacements.

Ronaldo Koeman, another Dream Team darling, has also been mentioned, but the Dutchman's dreadful reign at Valencia means that he is ruled out.


Age: 52

Nationality: German

Current job: German national team

Previous sides: VfB Stuttgart, Fenerbahce, Adanaspor (among others)

Philosophy: High-tempo, counter-attacking

Favoured formation: 4-2-3-1

Chances of replacing Pep:

Low fact: Low's Germany have lost out to Spain in the last two major competitions at international level

Although one of the finest coaches on this list, Joachim Low's link to the Barcelona job is tenuous to say the least.

Currently coaching an excellent Germany side and committed until the 2014 World Cup, Low has already declared that he will be going nowhere until after the South American showpiece in two years' time. And Low, recently rumoured to be interesting Real Madrid, sets up his sides in a counter-attacking style which is far removed from the possession philosophy at Camp Nou.

For those reasons alone, Low is unlikely to be an option and, barring an unmitigated disaster at Euro 2012, he will be unavailable anyway. A complete non-starter.

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