In the aftermath of a 6-1 thrashing of Sporting Gijon on Wednesday, Luis Enrique announced he will step down as manager of Barcelona at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Having won two La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys and one Champions League since taking over in 2014, the club's former midfielder says he now needs a "rest". Real Madrid's recent slips give him the chance to end his tenure with another Spanish title, but focus will inevitably shifty to who is going to replace the 46-year-old at the Nou Camp. IBTimes UK consider the early contenders.

Jorge Sampaoli

Having led Chile to the Copa América title in 2015, Argentine Sampaoli finally arrived in Spain last summer, tasked with filling the void left by Unai Emery at Sevilla after the Spaniard took over at Paris Saint-Germain. He hasn't disappointed, transferring his intense and tactically fascinating brand of football from international to club level. A recent Marca poll of 40,000 readers showed 37% of them wanted the Chilean in the dugout; the overwhelming favourite.

Ernesto Valverde

The Athletic Bilbao boss was second in that poll. The 53-year-old has spent the past four years honing his growing reputation at San Mamés and now stands as the club's choice to succeed Enrique, according to most recent reports from Marca.

Valverde's contract at Athletic expires this summer with no sign of a new agreement coming. His knowledge of the Spanish leagues and his healthy relationship with Barcelona's current sporting director Robert Fernandez could stand him in good stead.

Ernesto Valverde
Valverde the new favourite for the job, according to Spanish reports. Getty

Ronald Koeman

With the exception of Tata Martino's failed spell at the club, Barcelona have sought to appoint managers who possess some sort of resonance with the club. Koeman played a key role in that magical side managed by Johan Cruyff, scoring a European Cup-winning free-kick in 1992 and his rise as a manager in the Premier League means he has been linked with the job at his old club. According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona would have to pay Everton an €8m (£6.8m, $8.5m) to release the Dutchman from the three-year contract he signed at Goodison Park last summer. The former Southampton boss recently commented however he is not thinking about any clubs other than the Toffees.

Ronald Koeman
Koeman has been linked with a return to Barcelona throughout his managerial career. Getty Images

Laurent Blanc

Another former player has been linked with the role. While Laurent Blanc spent just one season in Cataluña, the Frenchman would appear to be a candidate. SFR Sport claimed last week Blanc, who left his post as Paris Saint-Germain manager at the end of last season, has already been contacted by Barca officials.

Mauricio Pochettino

The Tottenham Hotspur boss has gained a reputation as perhaps the Premier League's brightest young coach and while his impact is still yet to be felt in Europe, he has admirers at the Nou Camp. Pochettino was briefly linked with the Manchester United and Chelsea jobs early last year, ending such speculation by signing a new five-year deal at White Hart Lane in May. The Argentine has firmly bought into the project at the club and despite spending 10 years in the city of Barcelona as player and manager of Espanyol, he may feel he has unfinished business in north London.