Respected Athletic Bibao Coach Emerges as Lead Candidate to Succeed Luis Enrique at Barcelona

Athletic Bilbao head coach Ernesto Valverde is the leading candidate on a shortlist of potential replacements for current Barcelona boss Luis Enrique at the end of the season, according to ​Marca.​

Enrique’s contract expires in June, and it’s rumoured that Barcelona will not offer their former player a new deal to take him through next season – instead opting for a change at the helm in spite of the honours Enrique has won since taking the job.

CA Osasuna v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Valverde, who also played for Barcelona between 1988 and 1990, sees his own contract run out at Athletic at the end of the campaign and he has drawn attention from both Barca and rivals Real Madrid in the past. Los Blancos considered appointing him at the start of 2016 before hiring Zinedine Zidane into the role, though Valverde ended up signing a new deal at San Mamés.

Valverde’s extensive knowledge and experience in Spanish football is attracting Barcelona, and his favoured style of football is also considered to be a big plus by the decision makers at Camp Nou.

The club or Luis Enrique have yet to make a decision on what will happen in the summer, and are likely to leave a decision until the end of the campaign on whether their current coach stays or goes.

Quizzed about his long-term plans recently, according to ​Sport, Enrique admitted that he wasn’t certain what he was going to do: “Well, to be honest, I’m not sure.

“I don’t have any doubt that I am at the best team in the world, the best club, with the best players, in my home, with my family here and winning things, enjoying myself a lot.

“But there’s also another part of this tough profession, which I struggle with, which has negative connotations and I will have to assess with regards to the coming seasons.”