Xavi has announced that he’ll depart Barcelona at the end of the season. It remains to be seen what direction the club will go in for their next manager.
Speculation on who will be appointed Xavi’s successor in the summer has gone into overdrive, with a range of names – from up-and-coming young coaches, to big names, to in-house options – all being touted for the Camp Nou hot seat.
We’re not blessed with Fabrizio Romano’s contact book, so our guess on who takes over is as good as anyone’s. But it’s fun to speculate – so we’ve picked out six coaches we’d absolutely love to see get the job in the summer.
Just imagine it. The chaos. The scenes in Florentino Perez’s boardroom and across newspaper offices across Barcelona and Madrid.
Mourinho famously served as an assistant to Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal and interviewed for the Barcelona job when there was a vacancy in 2008. He reportedly gave a compelling PowerPoint presentation that included details on how he could adapt his own tactical approach to match the club’s traditional Cruyffist 4-3-3. Many senior figures within the club were said to be keen to hire him as a big, proven name.
Joan Laporta’s decision to look past Mourinho and instead appoint the rookie Pep Guardiola – on Cruyff’s advice – can be seen as one of football’s great hinge points. Guardiola’s treble-winning Barca revolutionised how football is played to this very day, while ever since Mourinho has cast himself as the anti-Pep, obsessed with showing another way of winning is possible.
Sixteen years later we’d love to get an answer to that ‘what if?’ question. Unfortunately it’ll never happen. Mourinho well and truly burned his bridges with Barcelona during his three years in charge of Los Blancos, when El Clasico peaked for pure toxicity.
Roberto De Zerbi
We’ve not fully checked through the records to say for sure, but we can be reasonably confident that if Barcelona hire De Zerbi it would be the first time they’ve appointed a coach with a 4-0 defeat to Luton Town on their record.
Brighton’s recent record isn’t all that much to shout home about, but on the flipside De Zerbi is responsible for a whole host of giant killings. The Italian led the club to sixth last season, the highest placing in the club’s history, and through to the last 16 of the Europa League after topping their group. It shouldn’t be forgotten that’s a remarkable return for a squad that cost peanuts with a relatively meagre wage bill.
Volatile results ought to be no surprise for a side that play in such a high-risk style. We’d love to see De Zerbi in charge of players like Pedri and Gavi, and how that brave press-baiting gameplan would translate to a club the size of Barca.
“Give Bielsa my Barcelona and you will see how he will win titles,” Pep Guardiola told Telemundo Sports in 2022.
“Give me Leeds, with all due respect to the Leeds players, but I would still be in the Championship.”
Bielsa was linked with the Barcelona job on and off in the post-Guardiola years, but you sense that ship has sailed – particularly with Bielsa now in charge of Uruguay, contracted until the 2026 World Cup, and not one to break his bond.
But God it would be fun, wouldn’t it? It’d be fascinating to see how the influential Argentinian tactician’s uncompromising attacking approach would gel with an elite-level club. It would feel equally likely to see him crashing and burning spectacularly as it would be getting the next generation to buy wholesale into his methods and ushering in a glorious new dawn. However things went, you can guarantee it wouldn’t be boring.
Like Mourinho, part of the fun of seeing Alonso at Barcelona would be for the meltdown in the Spanish capital. Having won everything there was to win at Real Madrid during his playing days, Alonso has long been anointed as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor at the Bernabeu.
Which is exactly why it’s (probably) never going to happen. Which is a shame as the 42-year-old’s track record, play style, and ability to develop and improve players ticks all the boxes for what Barcelona need right now.
Xabi Alonso ball is what I expect to happen when I tell my players to play vertical tiki-taka
— Out of Context Football Manager (@nocontextfm1) January 29, 2024
The Liverpool coach was absolutely effusive in his desire to take a sabbatical and there’s no reason not to take him at his word that he’s genuinely exhausted. Klopp genuinely feels as though he needs time away from football to recharge his batteries and we’d be shocked to see him back in another job before 2025.
But Klopp would be such a game-changer that he’d be worth waiting for – with an in-house stop-gap (Rafa Marquez?) to tide things over until the time is right.
While his brand of high-intensity football is of a different school to Johan Cruyff, Klopp’s force of personality would feel like a natural fit for a club like Barcelona, who – rightly or wrongly – view themselves as a countercultural alternative to imperial powers like Real Madrid.
However much you might roll your eyes at ‘Mes Que Un Club‘, it’s something that the club’s board and fans believe in. With a strong ethos of identity, you can imagine Klopp fitting in there, exactly as he did at Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund. Imagining him at a Madrid or Bayern or Juventus – clubs that take pride in being the establishment – would feel altogether a lot more incongruous.
The former Italy international has the connection to the club, having been brought over from Brazil as a teenager. He honed his skills in La Masia and went on to make over a hundred appearances for La Blaugrana, so in that sense he’s got a lot going for him – not to mention he’s doing an excellent job over in Bologna.
But really what we’d like to see if his patented “horizontal 2-7-2 formation” actually is the future of football, as he famously claimed when he was starting out as a youth coach at PSG.
Motta reportedly has a good relationship with sporting director Deco, so this feels like one that could actually happen. Bring it on.