Koeman sacked by Barcelona: Xavi favourite to step in, but Conte and Pirlo also in the running

After Ronald Koeman was shown the door by Barcelona, Xavi has been installed as the odds-on favourite to replace him. However, Antonio Conte and Andrea Pirlo are also attracting interest.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman was dismissed from his role on Wednesday evening, with a 1-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano proving to be the final nail in the coffin.

Koeman had been under huge pressure ever since Joan Laporta returned to Camp Nou in March as president of the club.

The club's huge off-field issues, which led to Lionel Messi's departure, meant Laporta had to focus on stabilising the club's finances, and amid the chaos, Koeman was allowed to start the season.

A torrid run of results, including 3-0 losses to Benfica and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, left Koeman under pressure, but after losing to Rayo Vallecano and dropping to ninth in La Liga, Barcelona decided enough was enough.

After being in charge for just over a year, Koeman leaves Camp Nou with only a Copa Del Rey to his name, and despite Barcelona's evident struggles, he simply didn't match expectations.

The club's board are believed to have one man in mind to replace Koeman. However, with the appointment yet to be made, Planet Sport assesses his claims and that of the other leading candidates.

Xavi

Xavi June21

Former players have not had the best of luck recently when returning to their old clubs in managerial roles. But Xavi has long been touted as the man to save his beloved Barca, even if he has been reluctant in the past to return.

The Spaniard has amassed vital experience in Qatar with Al-Sadd, and now could be the perfect time for him to complete a romantic return.

Loved by the Barca faithful, there's no doubt that Xavi will be afforded more time than Koeman to turn around Barca's form. And, having progressed through the club's academy he's well versed in their style of play.

Xavi is the clear front-runner and it appears it's his job to turn down.

Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte

Despite being heavily linked with the Manchester United job, Conte seems set for a longer spell on the sidelines, with the Red Devils yet to pull the trigger on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The former Inter Milan and Chelsea manager is renowned for his discipline and title-winning ability and could be a perfect short-term solution for Barcelona while they continue to tackle their financial difficulties.

The problem with Conte is that he doesn't tend to stick around too long. He also has a knack for disagreeing with the higher-ups over the running of their clubs. Given Barcelona's controversial boardroom history, it could be a volatile mix.

However, if Xavi is deemed to need more time, Conte could well be an ideal stop-gap measure to ensure Barcelona retain their status among Europe's elite.

Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez focusing on the future with Belgium despite Euro 2020 exit

The Belgian national coach is highly respected and has experience of working with some of the biggest names in world soccer. He would certainly bring the flair back to Camp Nou, but his club CV hardly points to Barcelona level.

After the failings of Ronald Koeman, the Barcelona board may have their doubts about Martinez. However, he's shown his ability to manage a team packed with talent, so there's no surprise he's in the running.

Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo, Juventus manager

Another emerging candidate is former Juventus star Andrea Pirlo. His style would certainly appease the Barcelona faithful, but he's yet to prove his winning credentials as a manager, and after failing in Turin, Barcelona will certainly have their doubts.

Erik Ten Hag

Erik Ten Hag, Ajax, manager

After links in recent weeks to both Manchester United and Newcastle United, we can add Barcelona to the mix as well.

Barcelona's recent luck with Dutch managers may not be great, but let's not forget the incredible work of Johan Cruyff. As the Catalonian side look to find a manager with a similar philosophy on the game, Ten Hag's work at Ajax won't have gone unnoticed.

After spending four seasons with Ajax, Ten Hag may be ready to try his luck elsewhere, and the Barcelona job is one that is hard to turn down.

Also, with a number of Dutch talents currently at Camp Nou, Ten Hag will have a head start when it comes to getting the most out of his compatriots.

Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry, Monaco manager 2019

Another former player linked with the vacancy is Thierry Henry, who has been a pupil of some of the world's greatest managers.

Able to draw on knowledge from the likes of Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola, there's every chance Henry can go on to become an elite manager.

However, his CV is underwhelming following unsuccessful stints at both Monaco and Montreal Impact. As Barcelona look to put Koeman's time behind them, Henry doesn't appear the best fit.

Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta pensive Arsenal Apr21

After a poor start to the season, Arsenal are beginning to turn around their form and Arteta's project suddenly looks all that more convincing. Having come through Barca's academy, there's no doubts Arteta will still have links within the club.

However, his time at the Emirates has certainly been shaky, so after Koeman's struggles, introducing an inexperienced manager such as Arteta would be hugely controversial.

READ MORE: Seven things you might not know about potential Newcastle United manager Erik ten Hag

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