Anims Tito. Like Kxevin beautifully wrote, it’s personal. Cancer is the number one killer in the world to whom all of us have lost loved ones.
Having said that, let’s talk replacements before one is appointed.
Pros: A Masía product who enjoyed a brief spell in Barça’s first team in 1988, Jordi Roura has been part of our technical staff since 2009. After analyzing opponents under Guardiola, he was promoted to assistant when Tito took charge of the team. Knows our squad intimately.
Cons: It is hard to judge from the outside, but not many culés were impressed by our dip in form once illness took Tito away from us last year. In his defense, he was put in a situation he didn’t ask for and we still finished with a record-equalling hundred point haul.
Probability 4/10: While our last head coach was promoted from within, rumor has it that the club has chosen to look elsewhere this time.
Verdict 5/10: Although I’d rather have Jordi as an assistant than Sarah Palin as vice-president, does he really have the tactical clout and personality to be our leading man?
Pros: The best coach in the world, according to none other than Josep Guardiola, is known to be an obssessive analyst and statistician of the game. Owner of one of the most extensive soccer libraries in the world, Marcelo “el Loco” Bielsa employs innovative methods and has his teams play attractive, attacking football. His theory that midfielders in the defense are better at launching counter attacks is said to have provided Pep with the inspiration to convert Javier Mascherano to a center back. As an added bonus, mad man Bielsa hails from Rosario, Argentina, the hometown of a certain footballer you might have heard of.
Cons: His teams are often erratic, mixing good results with bad ones. He led a wildly talented Argentina to a first round exit at the 2002 World Cup, only to win an Olympic title two years later. Under his guidance Bilbao reached two finals in one season yet failed to qualify for the Champion’s League. His last season with the Basque club ended in a disappointment, as the players got tired of his intensive ways.
Probability 7/10: Available, widely respected and possessor of a fine footballing philosophy not incompatible with our current squad.
Verdict 7/10: Known for his intense pressing game, Bielsa might just be the one who could fix our defensive problems. However, the risk of a massive burnout a la Athletic Club might make him a short term solution.
Pros: A majestic midfielder who played under Cruijff, Sacchi and Van Gaal, Frank Rijkaard delivered us our first European success of the milenium. One of the more classy managers at press conferences, Frank knows his way around the Camp Nou and is adored by his players.
Cons: Mainly adored by his players because he lets them party until 10h in the morning and foresake training. Rijkaard’s Barça started to fall apart when his assistant Henk Ten Cate left to become head coach at Ajax. Famously inspired Holland to miss five penalties in a single game to lose our semi-final against Italy at Euro 2000 and is the proud coach who got the Eredivisie’s Sparta Rotterdam relegated for the first time in its hundred year history.
Probability 1/10: Despite his availability, Rijkaard’s close association with Joan Laporta and Johan Cruijff means his appointment is improbable, to say the least.
Verdict 2/10: The legions of fans who are calling for Frank’s return on SPORT’s message boards should keep in mind that he has failed at every other team he has coached. Let’s not ruin his legend by asking him to spoil our current chances for success.
Pros: Ex-Barça player Ernesto Valverde has been quite the successful manager, reaching the UEFA Cup final with a modest Espanyol and winning two Greek league titles with Olimpiacos FC.
Cons: Looks like an accountant, not a football coach. Still a very young manager, Ernesto has had little to no experience with any star players.
Probability 3/10: Has just signed on as new head coach of Athletic Bilbao, the club where he has spent the majority of his career as a player.
Verdict 3/10: Although we should follow his career with great interest, at this moment Valverde is too lightweight to lead one of the biggest football clubs of the world.
Pros: Coming off of the back of an historic season with Bayern Munich in which he won the Bundesliga, the DFB-Bokal and the Champions League, Jupp Heynkes is considered to be one of Europe’s top coaches. An avid follower of Spanish football, he has coached three different Spanish clubs during his career and knows F.C. Barcelona like the back of his hand, a fact his team demonstrated by giving us a 7-0 as-whupping not so long ago. Most impressively coaxed complete performances out of egomaniacal star player Arjen Robben, in which the Dutchman passed and tracked back for consecutive games in addition to scoring in both the semis and the final. Heynkes has previously won a CL-trophy with Real M*drid in the 97/98 season, although this might very well be considered a con.
Cons: For all of the brilliance of last season, Heynkes has won only three league titles in almost twenty-five years as a coach. He also failed to win the league with Real M*drid in 97/98, although this might very well be considered a pro.
Probability 1/10: Promised his wife he wouldn’t coach this year. Do not count on the German to break his word.
Verdict 9/10: Represents his teams with class and his amazing accomplishment of last season will see him earn instant respect among our players.
Pros: Widely popular in Barcelona, “Snowflake” is a blaugrana legend, one of the most classy defenders to ever play the game and scorer of the only goal in the final of our first successful European Cup campaign. As a manager he led Ajax to two Eredivisie titles and later added another one with PSV Eindhoven. Won domestic cups with Benfica and Valencia, and is currently hailed in Holland for performing miracles with a young Feyenoord squad.
Cons: His very pragmatic coaching philosophy made it so he had no qualms to abandon Ajax’s house style, switching from their traditional 4-3-3 to 4-4-2. Not known for his loyalty, his very pragmatic lifestyle philosophy made it so he has played for and coached Holland’s three big clubs, once famously ditching PSV mid-season only to get canned at Valencia a couple of months later.
Probability 2/10: Piped as a future Barcelona coach at the promising start of his managerial career, his star has dwindled over the last years. And although he would undoubtedly abandon his young bucks at Feyenoord and sell his granny for even half a chance of coaching at the Camp Nou, I don’t see it happening.
Verdict 4/10: Koeman might not be the worst choice as a manager, but he definitely wouldn’t the best. And although he always speaks very fondly of his days of Barcelona, he put his culé credentials at risk by one day claiming he would coach M*drid if given the chance. I prefer we keep away from Tintin and wish him the best of luck – elsewhere.
Pros: One of the most graceful players in Barcelona’s history, Michael Laudrup has been a moderately successful manager. Widely lauded for taking Getafe to the Copa del Rey final and to the Europa League’s QF with an unprecedented attractive football, he is currently the crême du jour of the British media for bringing Swansea City its first ever title in their one-hundred year existence. The Dane remains as elegant as in his playing days, and my girlfriend thinks he is handsome.
Cons: Has been decidedly unsuccessful with Spartak Moscow and RSD Mallorca, although some quote the fact that he kept the latter out of the clutches of relegation as quite an achievement. Also, when the arrival of Romario converted Laudrup into the fourth wheel on Johan Cruijff’s dream mobile, Michael abandoned us for
those slimy-faced, white t-shirt wearing, gentlemanlier than thou, vomit-inducing capital bastards that other Spanish team.
Probability 5/10: Has just renewed his contract with Swansea. However, if anyone is interested in paying the rumored 6M euro buy-out clause, he might be willing to entertain offers.
Verdict 6/10: Michael seems like a talented young manager, and although he has never coached a title contender, he has plenty of experience in Europe’s top clubs. Whether he has the charisma to win over the dressing room would remain to be seen, but we could certainly do worse than contracting this Danish legend.
Pros: Frank De Boer has often been rumored to be the bastard son of Johan Cruijff and Louis Van Gaal, having played the majority of his very successful career under these two coaches. After taking over for Ajax he has won three straight league titles while staying true to the 4-3-3 formation and playing style that Barcelona (Cruijff) modeled their game after. After 144 games in the blaugrana shirt, he is no stranger to the inner workings of our club.
Cons: I suspect Frank De Boer’s Dutch accent to be as atrocious as Van Gaal’s, although he does not share his mentor’s crude and boorish behavior. Despite victories over both of Manchester’s juggernauts, De Boer’s young Ajax team has been somewhat disappointing in Europe.
Probability 5/10: An Ajax youth product, it might be hard to tempt Frank away from the Arena. His closeness to Johan Cruijff could prove another stumbling block for the current administration
Verdict 9/10: I personally think that this is the most exciting young coach in the game today. His achievement at Ajax is nothing short of amazing, especially when taking into account the turmoil the Amsterdam club has been in and De Boer’s dedication to youth players and attractive football according to the club’s traditions. I see Frank de Boer as a logical future Barcelona coach and hope that one day he will make the jump.
Pros: Another Barça legend, this merengue-turned-culé was one of the most fiery participants in the yearly clásicos, and now views the Camp Nou as his home. He excelled as a coach of Barcelona B, missing out on the chance of promotion due to Spanish Football Federation regulations. Revered by Barcelona fans and players alike, Lucho is a logical candidate for the head coaching position.
Cons: Failed spectacularly as a manager of AS Roma, getting booted out of the Europa League by the mighty SK Slovan Bratislava and missing out on qualification for European football.
Probability 7/10: Luis Enrique would have been a shoe-in had the position opened up a few months ago, but he has recently been appointment as head coach for Celta de Vigo. Further complicating matters is that he has taken Barça starlet Rafinha with him on loan, a player who is rumored to be more talented than his older brother and will need significant minutes to further his development. Would the head-strong and straightforward Asturian abandon Celta de Vigo while the ink on his contract is still wet? Stranger things have happened in the world of competitive football.
UPDATE: El Mundo Deportivo and TV3 are reporting that Luis Enrique will indeed be our new head coach.
Verdict 8/10: Most of us would love to see Lucho at the head of our club sooner or later. It now looks like it is going to be sooner rather than later.