'A superb professional and fantastic person' - Barcelona delighted with shock coach candidate Uzue

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Luis Enrique's assistant has emerged as a frontrunner for the the top job at Camp Nou and the coach has many admirers among the Catalan club

Barcelona spokesman Josep Vives has hailed Juan Carlos Unzue as a "superb professional" amid growing speculation Luis Enrique's assistant will step in as head coach at the end of this season.

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Luis Enrique announced he will leave Barcelona when his contract expires in June in the aftermath of his side's 6-1 win over Sporting Gijon at the start of this month.

Athletic Bilbao's Ernesto Valverde and and Seville's Jorge Sampaoli were initially touted as frontrunners for the post but Barca's upturn in form since Luis Enrique made his decision has made the prospect of an internal appointment seem more appealing.

Unzue played for Barcelona as an understudy goalkeeper during the Johan Cruyff era and, after making more than 200 league appearances for Sevilla, he returned to Camp Nou to serve as goalkeeping coach under Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola and first worked as Luis Enrique's number two at Celta Vigo.

Asked if Unzue could take over, Vives told reporters: "I can only say one thing. Unzue is a superb professional. A fantastic person. 

"We are very happy with his work. We are delighted that he is working the way he is doing.

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"When the season is over, and it has been said by several club spokespersons, the coach will be announced. The club always works, constantly.

"Also in sports planning. But the most important thing is what we have on the table. And we are alive in the League, in the Champions League and in the Copa del Rey."