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Jorge Sampaoli, Ernesto Valverde Preferred to Luis Enrique in Barcelona Fan Vote

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 29:  Head coach Jorge Sampaoli of Sevilla FC reacts during the La Liga match between RCD Espanyol and Sevilla FC at Cornella-El Prat stadium on January 29, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

David Ramos/Getty Images

Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2017

Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli is seemingly the favourite among Barcelona fans to take over from current manager Luis Enrique next season, but he is reportedly not on the three-man shortlist drawn up by the club. 

Following Barca’s 4-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 clash on Tuesday Enrique’s future as Barca boss past the summer has been thrown into serious doubt, per Spanish football writer Dermot Corrigan:

In a Marca poll of 40,000 people, just nine per cent voted that Enrique, 46, should stay in charge for 2017-18, while Sampaoli emerged as the clear favourite with 37 per cent—Athletic Bilbao boss Ernesto Valverde garnered 15 per cent.

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 14: Coach of FC Barcelona Luis Enrique Martinez answers to the media following the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes on February 14, 2017 in Paris, F

Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

However, according to Goal’s Ignasi Oliva and Ben Hayward, Barca have drawn up a list of three possible successors for Enrique and the Argentinian is not on it as the club “are unsure how he would fare at one of the world’s top clubs over a longer period of time.”

The trio mooted consists of Valverde, Real Sociedad manager Eusebio Sacristan and Everton boss Ronald Koeman, while Enrique could still be offered a new contract when his deal expires at the end of the season should he lead Barca to a third consecutive La Liga title, per Oliva and Hayward.

Enrique remaining at the club seems the least likely possibility at this point given Barcelona are one point behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid having played two games more, and they have a mountain to climb to stay in the Champions League:

All three on the proposed shortlist were Barca players under Johan Cruyff in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Koeman, 53, is enjoying a decent season with the Toffees in the Premier League and was successful in his previous job with Southampton. But Spanish football writer Sid Lowe recently indicated the Dutchman is far from Barca’s first choice, via football writer Richard Buxton:

Eusebio, 52, has been impressive as manager of La Real, who are currently flying high in fifth place in La Liga.

Meanwhile, Valverde, 53, has “long been admired by the Catalans for his stylish brand of football,” and he has a wealth of experience having taken charge of Athletic, Espanyol, Villarreal and Valencia in Spain, and won three league titles with Olympiakos, per Oliva and Hayward.

Sampaoli, though, is arguably the most impressive candidate given how brilliant his Sevilla side have been in 2016-17—they are currently just two points behind Barca in La Liga.

The 56-year-old is only in his first season as a manager in Europe, but he has proved himself elsewhere, leading a likeable Chile side at the 2014 FIFA World Cup before winning the 2015 Copa America with La Roja.

While he may not be on Barca’s current shortlist the clamour for Sampaoli to succeed Enrique is certainly apparent, although the Catalans could have to battle Arsenal for his signature, per the Times‘ Matt Hughes:

As noted by Lowe in Guardian in relation to Enrique: “This is the end for him.”

And, barring a spectacular turnaround before the end of the season, it certainly looks increasingly likely that someone else will be prowling the Camp Nou dugout come 2017-18.

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