BARCELONA boss Ernesto Valverde is reportedly close to being sacked following the humiliating Champions League semi-final defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday.

Barca surrendered a 3-0 lead to lose 4-0 at Anfield, despite going up against a Reds side missing key trio Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita.

Valverde’s side suffered a similar fate last year when they were eliminated by Roma despite winning the first-leg of that quarter-final tie 4-1.

And supporters are not happy at under-performing in Europe yet again, with players including Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets – who issued a tearful apology for his performance – also coming in for heavy criticism.

Here, SunSport looks at five potential candidates for the coveted role.

Quique Setien

REAL BETIS manager is favourite for the job due to his extreme passing philosophy which is heavily influenced by Johan Cruyff.

Setien has slowly built up his managerial career after making 518 league appearances as a player.

And after amassing an impressive squad at Betis featuring the likes of William Carvalho, Marc Bartra and Giovani Lo Celso, Setien could be on the verge of making an impressive leap to one of the world football’s biggest clubs.


LEGENDARY midfielder has announced his retirement and is looking to get into the coaching side of the game.

Xavi made an incredible 767 appearances for Barcelona, winning eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues in the process – as well as two Euros and a World Cup with Spain.

He remains one of the most iconic players to ever grace the Nou Camp pitch and is sure to be welcomed with open arms by fans, although his lack of experience could be a concern.

Max Allegri

JUVENTUS boss looks set to leave Turin this summer after falling short in the Champions League despite signing Cristiano Ronaldo.

Allegri is widely regarded as one of the best in the business and would bring unbridled passion and experience to the role.

He is also versatile with tactics but Barcelona may have to abandon their possession-based philosophy for the Italian to effectively work his magic.

Erik ten Hag

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE semi-finalist with Ajax, Ten Hag has exceeded all expectations after becoming boss in the Dutch capital.

He plays the game in the Cruyff spirit but also demands his team press high and quickly – a result of his spell as Bayern Munich B manager under Pep Guardiola.

Despite being comfortable in his current surroundings, Ten Hag is sure to be keeping his eyes peeled for new opportunities at a bigger club, and Barca chiefs will definitely have been impressed by his performances in Europe, which saw the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus fall by the wayside.

Laurent Blanc

FORMER Paris Saint-Germain and France boss has been out of work for three years.

But the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United had been keeping tabs on Blanc, who still commands a fine reputation across Europe.

He would be a more pragmatic choice than some other candidates, but would get the best out of a lot of the players with his strong mentality.

Other potential candidates

Roberto Martinez – Spaniard has done well with Belgium but may find it hard to run the rule over top players on a daily basis

Ronald Koeman – Another ex-Evertonian in the frame, Koeman is unlikely to turn his back on a resurgent Netherlands side.

Joachim Low – World Cup winner looks settled with Germany despite recent poor form, but could be tempted by the right offer.

Nuno Espirito Santo – Would surely fancy job but would find it hard to leave Wolves after finishing 7th on their return to the Premier League.

Leonardo Jardim – Has rescued Monaco from relegation in Ligue 1 but recent inconsistency may go against him.

Antonio Conte – Is a top manager but his philosophy strongly differs to the Barcelona way, plus he appears to be on the verge of joining Inter Milan.

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