Barcelona have drawn up a star-studded shortlist of candidates to succeed coach Xavi Hernandez with Mikel Arteta, Xabi Alonso and Roberto De Zerbi reportedly among the contenders.
Xavi announced on January 27 that he will depart the club at the end of the season, having taken over in November 2021.
Attention has quickly turned to his replacement with Mundo Deportivo mentioning a number of names in the frame.
Arsenal boss Arteta, 41, came through at Barcelona’s academy and his attacking style would be attractive to the Nou Camp club.
However, as Mundo say, Arteta is contracted to Arsenal until 2025, is enjoying plenty of success there and last month described links to Barca as ‘totally fake news’.
Mundo Deportivo report that Barcelona have prepared a shortlist of candidates to replace Xavi as their coach in the summer
Xavi Hernandez announced last month that he will leave Barcelona in the summer
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta moved quickly to shut down speculation linking him to the job
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Responding to reports, Arteta said: ‘I don’t know where it is coming from and it is totally untrue. I am really upset about it. I could not believe it. It has no source.
‘It has got nothing and I think we have to be very cautious when you talk about personal things.’
Paris Saint-Germain manager Luis Enrique, 53, is touted for a potential return, having coached the club between 2014 and 2017.
This successful spell included Barcelona’s 2015 Champions League success – part of a Treble – and he too favours the classic Barca style of playing.
But Mundo qualify this by pointing out he, too, has a contract at his current club until next year and whether Barcelona’s tight financial situation could prove off-putting.
The Brighton boss De Zerbi has impressed in the Premier League, they say, but has no experience of leading a big club with elite-level players.
They say De Zerbi’s passing style would go down well, as would the endorsements ex-Barca favourite Pep Guardiola has given him in the past.
Another interesting name mentioned is Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso, who is the favourite to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
The Spaniard has excelled in Germany, with Leverkusen surprise Bundesliga title contenders as they tussle with Bayern Munich at the top.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi has won admirers for his style but hasn’t led a big club
PSG coach Luis Enrique (left) has been mentioned for a return to Barcelona, while Bayer Leverkusen’s Xabi Alonso (right) is frontrunner for the Liverpool job
Mundo are impressed by his ‘intense, dynamic and vertical game’ there but admit his links with Real Madrid, where he spent five years, and Liverpool’s interest would scupper Barca.
Less favoured candidates named include Hansi Flick, out of work since becoming the first Germany national team coach to be sacked in September last year.
Barcelona would focus more on his impressive trophy-collecting feats with Bayern rather than his national team spell, with president Joan Laporta ‘attracted to the German school of technicians’.
Aston Villa boss Unai Emery is named as another candidate following the Spaniard’s impressive work in getting his side into the Premier League top four.
Emery was, of course, the PSG coach when they chucked away a 4-0 first leg advantage to lose 6-1 to Barcelona in the Champions League last-16 in 2017.
Hansi Flick has been named by Mundo Deportivo as a candidate for the Barcelona post
Aston Villa’s Unai Emery is mentioned but may be difficult to extract after success there
Outgoing Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is described as a ‘special case’ by Mundo Deportivo
The fact he has enjoyed Europa League success works in his favour but, as Mundo acknowledge, there is a good relationship with sporting director Monchi that makes it hard to leave Villa Park.
Intriguingly, they name Klopp as a ‘special case’. It’s obviously known that the German will leave Liverpool at the end of the season but also that he is likely to take a sabbatical after admitting he’d run out of energy.
The report notes Laporta admires Klopp for the competitive nature and intensity of his sides.
Other less likely candidates names are Porto’s Sergio Conceicao, Real Sociedad’s Imanol Alguacil and Michel at high-flying Girona.
There is the caveat that Deco, the Barcelona sporting director, has insisted no contact has yet been made with any coach.
The reason for this is Barcelona don’t yet know the salary or playing budget they can offer Xavi’s successor within the constraints of Financial Fair Play.