Who will be Barcelona coach in 2020/21?

    Quique Setien became Barcelona manager only two months ago, but his status at the club remains a doubt, and we will try to present the five realistic solutions for the next season

    Barcelona got rid of Ernesto Valverde following the Spanish Super Cup collapse in January, bringing in Setien to fill the vacancy. The club’s decision to appoint the 61-year-old shocked many and raised questions about the lack of planning for the Blaugrana long-term future.

    Josep Maria Bartomeu has come under mass criticism for ‘downgrading’ the club due to a lack of bright ideas and proper management of resources. His decision to hire a man, who almost gave up on coaching, fuels those speculations and casts doubt on the going-on at the club.

    And, while both Valverde and Setien can use huge injury setbacks as a mitigating circumstance to justify their inability to rekindle the glory days at the Camp Nou, the fans can’t reconcile with the period of stagnation.

    Despite sitting top of La Liga, the Catalans endure an utterly underwhelming season. Winning the league title could ease the pressure on Setien, but if Barcelona fails to land either La Liga or Champions League, his days in Catalonia will probably be numbered.

    The talks about Barcelona being a ‘one-man team’ that can’t function without their driving force Lionel Messi are not a platitude anymore. Indeed, they now rely on Messi more than ever, and it is a manager, who is tasked with mitigating that dependence.

    Unfortunately for Setien and his predecessors, they have all failed in that regard, which could have long-term consequences on the Catalan side. Messi will not play forever, and the Barcelona coach must be the one to put the groundwork for the future.

    So, in addition to the obvious title-related expectations, Setien is also entrusted with creating a squad independent of their Argentinean leader, which could as well define his reign at the Camp Nou. But, if he succumbs to pressure, Barcelona could end up appointing the third different coach in less than a year for the first time since 1960.

    Who will be sitting in the hottest managerial seat in Europe next season is arguably the most intriguing question at the moment. So, here are five viable solutions.

    #1 Quique Setien

    Quique Setien only took charge of in January, but there is a veil of mystery surrounding his future at the Camp Nou. It’s fair to say that the Spaniard wasn’t Barca’s primary choice in the first place, as they appointed him only after Ronald Koeman turned them down.

    Under his relatively short-term reign, the Catalans won eight of 12 matches across all competitions (D1, L3) and reached the top of La Liga. Sitting two points clear of Real Madrid at the summit, the reigning Spanish champions also remain in contention for the Champions League quarter-finals.

    So, the results speak in Setien’s favor, but it is the way Barca won those games that casts a shadow on those successes and raises doubts among the fans. Indeed, six of Barcelona’s eight triumphs under Setien yielded a single-goal margin, while each of their three defeats saw them draw a blank.

    Even before his arrival, the Blaugrana have lost much of their flair and beauty, but the impression is that the 61-year-old has done too little to improve things since taking the managerial reins. Whether or not the former Betis coach will stay at Barcelona beyond the summer will likely come down to the outcome of their pursuit of the Champions League.

    #2 Ronald Koeman

    Ronald Koeman knows how the system works, as he spent his best years as a player at Barcelona, and has never hidden his affection for their colors ever since. Additionally, the Dutchman practically began his managerial career at the Camp Nou, working as Louis van Gaal’s assistant from 1998 to 2000.

    The 56-year-old returned to La Liga to lead Valencia to the Copa del Rey title in 2007/08 before switching back to his homeland to take charge of AZ Alkmaar first and then Feyenoord. After enduring mixed fortunes during his three-year stint in the Premier League, where he was in charge of Southampton and Everton, Koeman has taken the managerial reins of the Netherlands national team.

    Dutch football was on the verge of collapse before Koeman’s arrival. They failed to qualify for two consecutive major tournaments, Euro 2016 and FIFA World Cup 2018 before the Barca legend came to the rescue. Under his guidance, the ‘Oranje’ secured the Euro 2020 (now 2021) berth and finished as the UEFA Nations League runners-up.

    The way Koeman has managed to turn the Netherlands’ fortunes around earned him a call from Barcelona back in January. The Catalans approached their former midfielder after bidding farewell to Ernesto Valverde. However, Koeman turned down the offer to remain with the national team, although he has later admitted that he would enjoy the opportunity to coach Barca one day.

    #3 Erik Ten Hag

    Widely regarded as one of the best young managers, Erik ten Hag has a host of admirers across Europe’s top-five leagues. Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Paris Saint-Germain, among others, have all expressed their interest in his services. Before Quique Setien’s appointment, the Dutchman was also mentioned as a subject of Barca’s desire, but no official confirmation has arrived whatsoever.

    Ten Hag has mastered his coaching skills under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. The 50-year-old spent two years working as Pep’s assistant at Bayern Munich, absorbing the Spaniard’s wisdom and brilliance before launching his coaching career.

    After two successful years in the Eredivisie with Utrecht, the Dutchman introduced himself to a broad audience at Ajax.

    During his three-year tenure at the Amsterdam Arena, the Lancers have re-established themselves in Europe’s elite, reaching the Champions League semi-finals last season, where they suffered a bizarre elimination to Tottenham Hotspur. Also, before the coronavirus outbreak stopped him, Ten Hag was on his way of leading his side to their back-to-back Eredivisie title.

    The highly-rated coach has guided Ajax in 116 competitive games so far, registering an intimidating record of W84, D15, L17. What’s more, the Lancers have netted 319 goals across those fixtures, boasting an outstanding average of 2.75 goals scored per match. Does he need a better recommendation?

    #4 Julian Nagelsmann

    Considering Barcelona has not shown any interest in the German manager so far, Julian Nagelsmann remains a dark horse in this race, but his managerial qualities certainly make him an eligible candidate.

    The youngest-ever coach to lead a team in the Bundesliga, Nagelsmann was not even 30 when he established TSG Hoffenheim as a permanent fixture in the German top-flight and made them one of the most entertaining teams to watch. He understands modern football and has showcased an impressive level of maturity despite being the youngest manager in Europe’s top-five leagues.

    After rejecting the prospect of joining Bayer Munich, the 32-year-old has taken charge of RB Leipzig and propelled them into contention for the Bundesliga title as well as the Champions League quarter-finals. As one of the most sought-after young tacticians in Europe, Nagelsmann has gained plaudits for his attacking-minded football.

    His teams often apply tactics that rely upon lightning-quick counter-attacks and short passes that make him a viable candidate for Barcelona. The Catalans fans are desperate to see their side rediscover their eye-catching football, and the German has what it takes to restore the famous ‘tiki-taka’ at the Camp Nou.

    No German has been handed the opportunity to coach Barca since Udo Lattek in the early 80s’ and Nagelsmann could be the first.

    #5 Pep Guardiola

    A list of managers suitable to take command in the dugout features the name of Pep Guardiola close to the top. The Spaniard probably remains the most influential figure among the Barcelona supporters for everything he did during his four-year spell at the Camp Nou. Johan Cruyff’s football philosophy graduate, Pep has adopted the ‘tiki-taka’ system and developed it to perfection.

    Widely considered as one of the best managers to ever grace the game, the 49-year-old kick-started his trophy-laden managerial career at Barcelona and is the main responsible for how the Blaugrana is perceived today. Fourteen significant trophies with the Catalan powerhouse, including three La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns, will forever be embedded in the memory of each Barcelona fan.

    Under Guardiola, Barcelona has established superiority rarely seen in the world of football, with many still regard his Blaugrana generation as the most dominant ever. He has set specific standards that none of his successors have managed to live up to, with the lone exception of Luis Enrique.

    Guardiola’s adventure at Manchester City is seemingly drawing to a close and a return to the place where it all started sparks imagination among the Catalans fans. Yet, if he ends up leaving the Etihad in the foreseeable future, the Spanish tactician will have many options to choose between, with several of Europe’s big guns keeping close tabs on him.

    However, Barcelona can always rely on the lure of the ‘good old days’ to tempt the highly-rated tactician to come back. What a reunion that would be!

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