Barcelona are considering replacing Luis Enrique with his assistant, Juan Carlos Unzue, if the current manager decides to leave the Nou Camp at the end of the season. The club would prefer Luis Enrique to remain for at least another year, but Spanish publication AS claims the Catalans are working on alternatives in case the boss opts against renewing his contract, as Pep Guardiola once did.
Luis Enrique took over from Gerardo Martino in the summer of 2014 following a season without silverware at the Nou Camp. The former Barcelona and Real Madrid player won the treble in his first season in charge, and also managed to triumph in La Liga and the Copa del Rey last term.
However, his future at Barcelona has come under scrutiny in recent months as he is out of contract at the end of the season.
Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano have all signed new deals at Barcelona in recent months, while it is expected that Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Lionel Messi will follow in due course. But president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed earlier in September that they were not planning to speak with Luis Enrique in the near future.
"We will not talk about Luis Enrique's renewal until almost the end of season. Luis Enrique and [club technical secretary] Robert Fernandez already said that. He is focused on the new season. We have a very exciting season ahead with massive hopes. I think that we will start the talks on March, April or May but we have not set a deadline date," Bartomeu said during an interview with RAC 1.
Barcelona are reportedly keen to retain him for at least another 12 months. However, it has been said Luis Enrique himself has asked club officials to delay those talks as the final decision will depend on whether his side finish the campaign with any significant silverware.
AS claims that the La Liga giants have already drawn up a plan B in case Luis Enrique decides against renewing his contract. The reports claim that rather than looking to the market to find a high-profile manager, Barcelona's idea would be to promote Unzue from his current role as Luis Enrique's assistant.
Barcelona made a similar decision in 2012 when Pep Guardiola decided to leave the club to take a sabbatical, appointing his former assistant Tito Vilanova as first-team boss. AS claims the club would offer Luis Enrique the possibility of continuing at Barcelona as general manager in order to ease the transition.
Other managers, like Everton boss Ronald Koeman or Sevilla's Jorge Sampaoli, have been tipped as potential candidates to replace Luis Enrique in the future.
However, Koeman, speaking in an interview with Daily Mail, rejected suggestions he is using Everton as a stepping stone to Barcelona.
"One time when I went to Valencia. They always speak about Koeman and Barcelona. Everyone knows I have a relationship with Barcelona. Everyone says, 'One day Koeman will be the coach in Barcelona'. I had a little bit in my mind that when I went to Valencia it was maybe a good step to do the next step to Barcelona. But now I'm more experienced. You cannot plan what is going to happen," the Everton boss said.
"You cannot plan your life. In life everything is possible. In football everything is possible. You can't say, 'I go to Everton in one or two years, I go to Barcelona'. No. Why? Maybe Everton will be bigger than it now is. Maybe Luis Enrique is doing a fantastic job for the next three years and they don't need a coach."