Barcelona’s search for a new first-team coach to replace Ronald Koeman appears to have taken a fresh twist with club legend Xavi reportedly ruled out by president Joan Laporta.
The 58-year-old “is not in favor of his return yet” and has instead made former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola his top choice, according to Albert Masnou at Diario Sport.
The report adds that there are also “other names on the table” to coach the team next season. The names mentioned are Germany boss Joachim Low, who will leave after this summer’s European Championship, River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo, and Belgium’s Roberto Martinez.
Former Barcelona striker Thierry Henry, who has managerial experience at Monaco and Montreal Impact, is also mentioned along with Barcelona B coach Francisco Javier García Pimienta.
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Guardiola Is Laporta’s ‘Impossible Dream’
Laporta plans to get in touch with Guardiola to discuss the possibility of making a sensational return to the Camp Nou after Saturday’s Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City, according to Javi Miguel at AS.
The Barca president does not want to talk to Guardiola before then because he knows the Man City boss will be fully focused on the game. Laporta is said to have “made it clear to some of those closest to him that he believes he is capable of convincing Guardiola to return.”
The report adds that if Laporta is successful then Guardiola is more likely to return in time for the 2022-23 campaign rather than next season. The City boss signed a contract extension at the Etihad in November 2020 that runs until 2023.
Guardiola has previously said he would never manage Barca again. He told Mundo Deportivo in 2014, as reported by The Guardian, that “In principle I won’t coach Barça again. I think that there are cycles in life and that mine [at the club] finished.”
Transfer expert Fabrizio Romano has also insisted Guardiola will not return. He wrote on Twitter, “Pep Guardiola has no intention to leave Manchester City. Even if he’ll win the Champions League on Saturday, Pep is staying at Man City – he’s already planning for new signings together with Citizens board.”
Barcelona Considering Martinez?
Meanwhile, speculation that Barcelona could turn to Martinez is picking up pace. The Belgium coach is a “possible alternative” to Koeman, according to Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens at ESPN.
The former Everton manager has a contract with Belgium until 2022 and his “first intention” is to stay, but the report adds “his contract allows for certain scenarios in the event a ‘top club’ makes an offer.”
Martinez is from Catalonia and “says his coaching career has been inspired by the works of the late Johan Cruyff,” although he has never worked or played with Barcelona during his career.
The 47-year-old is set to lead Belgium at this summer’s European Championship and his team will be one of the favorites with a strong squad including players such as Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, and Thibaut Courtois.
Laporta is keen to make a decision on the coaching job within the next 7-10 days, according to Albert Masnou at Sport. If the club has been unable to agree a deal with a suitable candidate then Koeman will continue for another season.