After Luis Enrique announced that he would be quitting Barcelona come summer, like a death row inmate swallowing a cyanide pill, the search is on for a replacement. The shortlist, in truth, should be comprised of one single name.
Jorge Sampaoli, the South American coach currently exceeding all expectations with Sevilla, could reach heights never seen in world football if given the job in Catalonia.
Sampaoli demonstrated with Chile – where he won the Copa America and played such lovely football in the 2014 World Cup before an unfortunate and undeserved penalty loss against hosts Brazil – that he is capable of inspiring a team to over perform. Just ask any Manchester City fan how good they think a manager must be to win a major trophy with Claudio Bravo in goal, or United supporters what they think of a man who can make Marcos Rojo look like a world-beater.
Having resigned as Chile manager, much to the dismay of their followers, Sampaoli took over a Sevilla side that looked to be on a downward trajectory after losing Unai Emery and many of its star players. The result has been quite the opposite; the club has somehow managed to push on and overachieve even more. The Andalusian outfit are currently on the verge of reaching the Champions League quarterfinals and two points off the top of La Liga, looking capable of doing better than Barcelona in both competitions.
The 56-year-old is also, of course, Argentinian; having a compatriot as his manager could be instrumental in keeping Lionel Messi at Barcelona and firing on all cylinders. Messi has been known to let his emotions affect his football in the past and has also clashed with Luis Enrique. Such bad blood is unlikely with Sampaoli, not only because of his nationality but because he has been vocal in supporting the star after criticism from the Argentine press and supporters, and because he’s Lionel Messi.
Sampaoli: "Do I dream of coaching Messi? Coaching him will always be a desire of mine. It doesn't only depend on me."
— FORÇA BARÇA (@ForcaBarcaEN) February 16, 2017
One side such a move might be bad news for, however, is Arsenal. Sampaoli got the best out of Alexis Sánchez with Chile and could look to bring the attacker back to Barcelona should he get the job. Competition would be tough, obviously; Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar are regarded by many as the best forward line ever to grace the game, but the prospect of Sánchez playing under the manager who gets the most out of him alongside the mercurial talents is tantalising.
All things considered, Sampaoli seems to be the hand that fits perfectly into the incredibly awkward glove that is Barcelona boss, the only question is whether a notoriously erratic board will make the correct decision.
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