What do we want? No idea. When do we want it? Now.

In considering the Barça coaching vacancy and general reactions to it from supporters and media critters, all that comes to mind is some adaptation of the Sinead O’Connor album title, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.”

But nobody has any idea who the right coach is for Barça. Not even the people for whom the decision actually matters. There is also romance vs need, the coach someone wants vs the coach the team needs. Those are also often different. The only thing that is a guarantee is that whoever is chosen will be “wrong” for someone.

It has only been during the era of Pep Guardiola in superclub Barça history (Ronaldinho and onward) that culers have been content with their coach. There were mumbles during Rijkaard, mumbles during Vilanova, caterwauls during Martino, shrieks of horror during Luis Enrique. The volume of those shrieks is louder because of the joy that calmed the land during annus Guardiolus, also known as Pax Guardiolus.

Once unrest began among the peasants, better and different coaches became all the rage, like the latest menswear trend. Klopp begat Tuchel begat Guardiola coming back begat Sampaoli. The roots present in all of these longings wasn’t just simple dissatisfaction but the lure of magic. Any of these candidates would be able to bring back that thing missing from Barça, that thing that even a treble or double couldn’t sate: playing the Right Way.

Names popped up in the rumor mill to fill the latest vacancy, but woe betide the name that wasn’t the right name. Valverde? Ugh. Sampaoli is the name on the lips of one and all, and woe betide the person not on that bandwagon.

As with players, there are degrees of hipsterism. There is always the supporter, the true geek, who when a name pops up on the transfer rumor mill, can honestly say, “I watched him in junior football at FC Club You Don’t Even Know. He was brilliant. He continued to mature as part of his youth NT, and is more than ready.” Most people Google the player, search YouTube and become an authority. Jorge Sampaoli burst into the consciousness of most via his Chile national team, whose tactical talk was, in sum, “There they are. Get ’em.” Then Sampoli turned them loose.

What in that could be seen to presage a return to juego de posicion and Cruijff is beyond me. He took over Sevilla and turned the team into a championship contender by having them play lovely football. Nasri was a crucial addition, giving midfield stability and creativity. He also integrated Jovetic into his side in a dynamic way while solidifying the defense. The biggest thing he brought to Sevilla was the belief that allowed them to outplay top team after top team, even beating Real Madrid.

But the lingering question is this one: What in the hell makes anyone who has watched Sampaoli teams play, makes them believe he is going to bring back That Barça. New ideas? The right kind of ideas? Okay, go for that. But the devotion to the cause of Sampaoli is intense, based on, in the case of most of his proponents, little more than a quality half-season at Sevilla. In reality, there isn’t all that much to recommend Sampaoli over Luis Enrique except that he isn’t Luis Enrique, which is fair if that’s what you want: seeing Luis Enrique gone.

Now the buzz has broken that Sampoli is going to renew at Sevila, there is chagrin in the land, even as this is the right move for him as he has more work to do there as well as on his overall mystique. Nonetheless, Barça Twitter has been generally morose about something that was never going to happen. The Barça board in place is always going to opt for the most conservative candidate because of how they view the team, which is a license to print money. Recall the Bartomeu comments that part of their job is to make the club so big that it can still thrive even in the absence of sporting success.

People lost their minds at that comment, mostly because it’s hard to be perceptive in the face of passion. But that was a money manager’s comment, or that of a club president who understands marketing. It also made perfect sense, because if Barça needs to win trebles to make money and win sponsorships, that isn’t exactly a recipe for a stable future. But that kind of thinking also makes a board and its president conservative. You want a coach who is going to not upset the apple cart too much, particularly as the apple cart doesn’t really need upsetting right now, even as it might in the future.

Can you imagine the looks a coach would get now if he came in screaming, “Run, you bastards, run!” There would be so much sideeye that Barça would be nicknamed Team of the Damned. The next coach will usher Messi almost into his mid-30s. Same with Pique and Busquets. This will also be the last coach that Iniesta plays for. Given the amount of time it would take for old dogs to learn new tricks, that is time wasted in careers whose effectiveness is slipping, like sand through an hourglass.

But money managers are conservative in general. Which is why we are hearing a name such as Valverde as the front runner, even as rumors have all the veracity of a man trying to get that last rap in at last call. Don’t trust them. One thing you can count on is the money managers making a safe bet. Don’t be shocked if Unzue just moves over one seat. People won’t like that, will say that assistants don’t make good coaches, particularly perpetual assistants such as Unzue. But if you want someone to just carry on, who better than a current assistant, even as this assumes the assistant doesn’t have ideas of his own. Vilanova did. Note that Unzue has been attending matches at B and youth team levels, and has been more prominent on the sidelines and in conversation with Luis Enrique. Does that mean anything? Who knows, but there it is.

What’s most important to note about the coaching search is that this isn’t Christmas, and what you want most is Gi Joe with the Kung-Fu grip, and no other action figure will suffice. There are people thinking about this who have more on the line than vicarious supporter joy, or being to talk shit on social media.

And those folks are quaking in their boots. Because right now, Barça is NOT an entity sustainable in the absence of sporting success. And there is a base of supporters sitting there lying their asses off when they say that style of play is all that matters, that not winning would be acceptable as long as the style of play was right. This choice is more essential than that of Luis Enrique in terms of the team dynamic. An aging core is combining with a coterie of new signings that, if the “it takes a year to assililate” is as true as always, will be ready to kick ass next season. The team could be brilliant. The “wrong” coach could come in with a bunch of new ideas and, dependent upon how long the team takes to absorb and assimilate, could cost time that the team (and the board) doesn’t have.

That choice is probably going to be a conservative one, and preferably one who already has knowledge of the club. Unzue? Who knows? Who is best for the team? Who knows? Not me, not you, not even the ones tasked with making the ultimate decision. Because it’s all a crap shoot. With a different psychology, injury list and motivation, Tata Martino might have won a treble. That’s how capricious the reality of coaching is. A man relies on a group of 22 players, 11 playing at a time, for his livelihood. If those players produce, he’s a genius (assuming he isn’t unfavored). If they don’t, he’s a prat (assuming he isn’t favored). A lot of that is luck, bounces of the ball as much as systems. Unai Emery is a Di Maria finish away from being a genius instead of finished at PSG. Sampaoli is a crappy N’Zonzi penalty finish away from being the name on everyone’s lips. It isn’t fair, but it’s reality.

Lord knows why people fixate on things. Klopp is still wrestling with making Liverpool into something more than what it has been: a top five Premiership side. Tuchel has Dortmund essentially as the same sort of young, exciting, dynamic team that captivated during the Klopp era. Would I want either one to coach Barça? Nope. Sampaoli? Nope. Because the reality is that I have no idea who the hell I really want to coach Barça, beyond the best man for the job. How do we know he’s the best man? Because the team will play beautiful football, and win. The danger lies in letting expectation define the answer to the question. Often the only thing behind that door is perpetual disappointment.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. The coach i want is, Is one who continuous Barca’s philosophy, A philosophy that has strong roots with total football, First Introduced to us by johan cruyff, And subsequently adapted and modified by frank rijkaard, Pep guardiola and luis enrique, With all the previous adding their own unique variations to a similar set of ideas, A common identity, Which we should all remember that it is much more than simply being an attacking team.

    The importance of sticking to our way of football isn’t because of sentiment, Nostalgia or “beauty”, It’s the reason why we are the most successful football club in Europe in the last 28 years, Massing 47 trophies over that period, A number than not a single European club comes even near.

    It’s always preferred that our future coach has previously been exposed and ‘bathed’ so to speak in our style of play, Weather as barca player or not,
    He also need to convince the board that he has his own vision and fresh ideas for the team that doesn’t deviate from our style, So unzue?, Why not, Eusebio?, Why not!.

    Unfortunately In the fanbase world, Nothing of the above seems to have any relevance, It’s just a popularity contest, Who’s the hottest item at the moment!, Sampaoli, Klopp, Or some other absurd name that has absolutely no relation to us!, The main criteria being, Is he a “winner”?, Does he scream and jumps like a mad-man during the match?, Does he give that “Cool” Vibe?, Then sign him up!!

    1. Well said (both Rami and Kxevin). Tradition is important, without meaning exactly the same. Basic idea is important, with the freedom to tweak. Eusebio seems to be self-assured enough, and probably better for first team than B-team, but I don’t know. Unzue? Perhaps, if the players support him. I don’t know what Valverde would bring; seems competent, not innovative.

      Speaking of geniuses: Pep & City out of CL…

    2. Oh – anyone who would convince Thiago to return, carrying Verratti on his back, Lemos in his hand, and some young hot shot attacker who can play RW in his pocket. Or time for Alexis 2.0? Not Wenger, then…

    3. You’re talking of either a kidnapper or a bored billionaire, but I don’t see many coaches who fit that description around ; )

    4. Rami, Davour, GeorgJorge, you all crack me up 😀 :D. Great comments, friends. I would vote for the bored billionaire, but then I look at the story of Stan Kroenke and the ultimate hipster club , and the irony just becomes too much.

      Indeed, eccentricity and footballing extremism seem to be all the rage these days. Although I fail to see how either attribute is neccesarry or sufficient for a good manager. Beyond a certain point, the urge to define a manager’s ‘style’ makes for some very confusing narrative. The other day I saw ‘Pausa’ being used in relation to Sevilla’s Bielsaball. Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

      I personally have a rather hairy and potentially heretical view about this whole issue of identity and philosophy, but I should probably write that dissertation some other time. Let’s just use some safe words, and say that I believe in ‘evolution’, ‘adaptation’ and ‘growth’. At least that way I don’t get skinned alive 😉 May be.

    5. I fully agree with your comment about the fanbase (and I include myself here, I definitely haven’t got a clue at all who should coach Barca next season). In this age of the masses making themselves heard on social media, and with football turning more and more into marketing with a few balls being kicked around on the side, I actually shudder to think that one day some clubs might actually appoint coaches due to their popularity instead of their abilities.

      I wasn’t following Barca regularly when Pep was appointed, but I know he wasn’t at all the man all the fans wanted in the beginning. Luis Enrique wasn’t either when he came on (and still isn’t). They could have brought on some coach already proven to be world-class instead of those B-team coaches, and we would have missed out on a lot of brilliant football. I’ll support whoever gets to manage the team at the start of next season (well maybe not that Portuguese guy who used to work as a translator for Barca, but I don’t think it will come to that).

  2. Woa, Monaco ripped apart Manchester City on that first half and now they are on QF… Pep should make heavy adjustments to get the lead back… he’s lucky to just need one goal…

  3. Well, that just shows that even the best coaches can have crappy games… Manchester City was wiped out in the first half… if they got back on the second half was, in big part, thanks to Monaco’s shift in attitude… they let City have more control of the match and got a goal against… if they kept the pressure and rythm they had, I doubt that City would have scored that goal at all.

    Either way, back to the topic at hand. Who would be the perfect replacement for Luis Enrique? Obviously, that’s a hard question, or maybe a question with no answer at all. You can give many names: Sampaoli, Ranieri, Klopp, Bielsa, etc… truth is, all of them are great coaches and surely can make improvements to this Barça team, but they also would worsen some things as well. Have Guardiola back? It may sound like a great idea, and I would favor it… but, at the end, I think that the best thing for both Guardiola and Barcelona is to not have him back at the bench… why? I see difficult that Guardiola could replicate the golden era he had… sure, he would certainly win some silverware… but his reputation at Barcelona could be tainted because he will hardly win 14 trophies in 4 years.

    Convince Luis Enrique to stay another season? That would be the best option for me. Many dislike him and I do see that he isn’t the most charismatic person, but he does have what is required… the desire to win, the desire to improve, the ability to instill that motivation on the players… he may not be a tactical genius, but you don’t need to be one when you have players like Neymar, Suarez, Messi, Busquets, Iniesta (even as he is starting to have his career decline), Rakitic, Pique, Stegen, etc. at your disposal…

    However, the decision of him leaving seems to be irrevocable… so that’s out as well.

    So, who should be designated? I guess that very few would have a definite answer. The only thing that I see for sure is that, whoever it is, that coach should receive full support from the board and fans. Tata Martino was a good coach and his season wasn’t really bad… even when he didn’t receive full support from the team.

  4. If we bring the RB of Monaco,Thiago,Veratti,Lemos,Guerreiro and Mbappe,i can be the coach next season.

  5. Does anybody have any idea how to get the presale tickets for Barca v Madrid in Miami? Please help.

  6. This isn’t likely to be very popular, but it is ‘outside the box’ — Zidane. Or if not hiim, someone of his ilk. I think we need a manager who has chops as a player, and very importantly (perhaps most important) has people skills. The guy absolutely must be more out-going and proactive and psychologically ‘wise’ when working with the kids. I very much get the impression that Enrique is quite dry, and believes (I’m only slightly exaggerating) that a silent nod is all that is needed to show approval.
    How about Ancellotti?

    1. Wasn’t LE the most successful coach in the history of Barca B? Nolito says that LE was the one who made a professional out of him and changed his life. Sergi Roberto is his protege, so is Rafinha. Even now it seems (to me at least) that he syncs much better with his younger players (Neymar included) than he does with some members of the old guard. Just my impression. I guess I am just weary about making a judgment on how he actually behaves in private with his players based on how he behaves in press conferences.

      Ancelotti is remaining with Bayern for a couple more seasons I think. If indeed we are indulging in the wild thought of having an Italian coach for Barca (never likely to happen methinks) I would have loved to see Allegri with this squad. He is actually one of the few modern coaches who deserve the epithet of a ‘tactical genius’, if there is at all such a thing, if only for his sheer versatility. And he improves players in his quiet, low key manner. But then, an Italian coach for Barca not gonna happen. Leonardo Jardim is another one who has an incredible record of working with young players, and he has turned out to be very versatile as well. But again no Barca link. Although he was indeed born in Barcelona (Venezuela) 😉

      I think when it comes to Barca, the environmental factors seem to have a lot of weight apart from footballing factors. So ex-players who can be trusted to know/understand/handle that seem to be safer/popular options. If you ask me personally, I think having a brilliant but complete outsider can actually be good for the evolution of the club, now that it has finally entered the twilight of an era-defining generation. The new era is a blank slate right now, so may be there is some 40 year old waiting somewhere to come and make that indelible stamp on the club’s identity and usher it into the new era? I don’t know who that is though.

  7. By the way, a small note… regarding Guardiola and the “full support” he got when he was Barcelona’s coach… there were people that didn’t like Guardiola at all since the beginning… however, something happened that made those voices dissapear… and that something was Mourinho…

    Yes, funny enough, Mourinho and his rivalry against Barcelona unified supporters and fans everywhere, specially since that Inter semifinal… and even more after he was hired by Real Madrid… him being the “common enemy” made many supporters forget about critizing Pep and the team at all and focus on defeating the main antagonist.

    Compare Mourinho then to nowadays Zidane and there’s a lot of difference… Zidane isn’t interested (at least right now) on making outragerous remarks or fighting against Barcelona…

    1. Yeah, having Luis Enrique on one side and Zidane on the other side is as anti-climactic as it could be after the Pep-Mourinho soap opera. But the soap opera has been rebooted in England, only now with Conte as the third angle in the love triangle 😀 😀

  8. .
    OPTION 1 :
    Luis Enrique

    OPTION 2 :

    OPTION 3 :
    Diego Simeone

    OPTION 4 :
    Tata Martino

    OPTION 5 :
    Pep Guardoila

    Yes, I am very serious. No jokes, really.

    1. Option 1: Koeman

      Option 2: Koeman

      Option 4: Eusebio

      Option 4: Unzue

      Option 5: Valverde

    2. Do you really think those are realistic options? especially Pep and LE.

      Here’s mine.

      Option 1: Koeman

      Option 2: Koeman

      Option 4: Eusebio

      Option 4: Unzue

      Option 5: Valverde

      My Opinion

    3. //

      Are you serious. you’ve gotta be shitting me,
      Paco Jemez would make for a better candidate than Koeman.
      Great player, but completely not what we need at the moment.

  9. Hi guys. Thanks for the concerned comments when you thought I’d fallen under a bus or something similar 🙂

    Actually I was so sure we were gonna get knocked out by PSG and sure that I’d be in a mood that I’d booked a few days away in the Highlands immediately afterwards to recover. Bit of an unnecessary getaway as it turned out ! Still, we had a lovely time in the bleakness of it all and it took me all of that time to calm down from the sheer excitement. Having just watched the recording of the wekend’s game, that would have done the trick in about 5 minutes.

    Anyway, in full 5 minute Shakespeare mode great against PSG . Effort unbelievable though we did ride our luck ( two unbelievable touches from Iniesta btw) and not much to say about the weekend except it was a pity. We’ve lost a few bad goals recently and need to sort it.

    New coach. Don’t know enough. I like Klopp’s personality but if poss keep it inhouse with Unzue would be my uneducated thought.

  10. I don’t suppose there’s an executive summary of that time, DL ?

    Seriously, there was every chance of that happening or indeed worse as I was already on my final warning from my good lady and our daughter (who still lives with us, tell me about it ! ) when Neymar’s FK went in. There were serious words exchanged when it happened again just as they were settled.

    Now that I’m back in the swing of things –

    I did indeed think Masche played much better in a back three. Not clever at their goal but he’s much better when tied to that position. Poor from Alba at their goal at the weekend but what happened to our zonal ? He’s not meant to be there, Busi is. Having Masche and Alba at the back post is schoolboy stuff. Btw, can any of the non Brits here remind me what the European aversion to placing a man on the post is . Yet another goal wouldn’t have happened. Likewise, I’ve been banging on about us keeping far too high a line at free kicks. We should maybe consult City’s opinion on that after last night. Utterly stupid. Huge gap to play into, keeper can’t come, defenders running backwards to own goal while forwards get a run at it.

    There, I feel better now !

    1. Jim, so glad to see you bach here. I was actually guessing you might be on a golfing trip somewhere, but some other people here got me worried with that ‘going out on a high’ thingy 😀 😀 😀

      And it seems one of the rare things that you and I tend to agree on is our common aversion to the hodge-podge mixture of zonal and man marking on set-pieces. So once again I am with you on that one, and I am not a Brit, but I have the same question as you do (as would all Italians and South Americans I suppose).

  11. //

    since every year it is the same damn story, let me try something different this time.
    In this draw, I want to see Barca drawing Bayern or Atletico Madrid and

    Real madrid to draw Leicester City or Monaco.

    1. Nice try! I’ll join in.

      This year, I want to see RM reach the finals where they win the game in overtime by a Sergio Ramos header.

  12. So glad to have you back Jim. This “went out on a high” thing concerned me no end. So silly!! Anyways glad you liked Masche. I think in high stakes game his energy and will to do whatever is necessary comes handy. Although I do agree with you on his impulsive decision making.
    Well I certainly hope to hear from you often again now. And btw what luxury, to take a break in the Highlands whenever you like. That place looks spectacular in pictures.

  13. //

    i called it!

    i called for dortmund to face monaco. and voila!

    i called for bayern to face madrid and voila!

    this reverse jinxing thing works

    vamos madridista motherf****s

    lets see you now luck your way to the finals!

  14. Whoa. RM – Bayern and Barca – Juventus will be awesome, and Monaco – Dortmund is going to be spectacular, potentially lots of goals in that match.

    I’ve been dreaming of RM – Bayern for a long time. Tough for both of them. Juventus won’t be any easier for us, but I am optimistic.

  15. Juventus is easier than RM od Bayern, at least for me.
    Atletico, Dortmund, Bayern and us in the SF. 🙂

    1. Not so fast.

      Of course I am backing Barça to go through regardless of whichever team we face… Barça
      While I think Bayern can control Real that one is still a toss up as Bayern’s performances haven’t been consistent… Toss Up (away goal does it)…. hell… Bayern
      Monaco’s forward line and midfield can destroy Dortmund’s suspect defense… Monaco
      Leicester can surprise Atletico with their defensive structure, energy and pace while matching their toughness… Leicester

Comments are closed.