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Who could replace Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona?

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A look at some of the candidates for the Camp Nou job

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde is on the verge of ending his second season with Barcelona and has led the club to back-to-back La Liga trophies and sealed a place in the Copa del Rey final, yet another trophy he won last season.

While these have been some impressive feats by the former Athletic Bilbao manager, they still don't seem to be sufficient for a club of Barca's magnitude, with the Champions League trophy having last been lifted by Barca in 2015.

His second Champions League exit after leading the first leg by three goals has given rise to rumours of his exit, with a number of capable replacements looking likely to take the reigns should the rumours be proven correct.

Soccerex Asia - Day 2 Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images

The first name that is worth mentioning is that of Barca legend Xavi. The midfield maestro is to retire at the end of the season, and should thus be available for the job. While he lacks managerial expertise, he has proven his leadership capabilities on the field at the heart of the Blaugranes' midfield, and made up a part of arguably the best Barca lineup in the club's history. Barca is in his heart, as he proved with 17 years of loyalty to the club, and he won over 25 honours in a Barca shirt, including four Champions Leagues. His heart beats to the rhythm of tiki taka, and if anyone understands what it takes to restore Barca to its legendary status, it’s Xavi.

Paris Saint-Germain Training Session and Press Conference Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Up next on the list is former French and Barcelona star Laurent Blanc. Unattached since 2016, he would certainly be an option for Barca this season. He did play a season for the Blaugranes in 1996-1997, meaning that he received some insight into the club’s football culture, albeit not nearly to the same extent as Xavi. What makes him appealing to Barca, however, is his ability to help a club make a rapid turnaround, as he did with Bordeaux and PSG. After just a season in charge, he led Bordeaux to their first Ligue 1 title in 10 seasons, and secured the French League Cup for them in the same season. He also secured back-to-back Trophée des Champions for the previously struggling side. With PSG, he helped them to their second Ligue 1 trophy in as many years after their last win came in 1993-1994. He then secured every French domestic honour for PSG for two straight seasons. While not yet a champion in Europe as a manager, giving Blanc the opportunity to improve on Barca's showing this year is certainly worth a shot.

Belgium v Iceland - UEFA Nations League A Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

While not a Barca alumnus himself, Martinez is a excellent manager who has soared up the career ladder in recent years due to his raw managerial talent. His preferred playing style of a 3-4-2-1 formation is representative of his attacking mentality and focus on dominating possession, which would make him a decent fit at Barca. He has showcased his ability to perform on the world’s greatest stage, earning Belguim the bronze medal at the 2018 World Cup, and should thus have the big match mentality necessary to lead Barca to victory in the Champions League.

Ajax Training and Press Conference Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Reported by many sources to be Barca's most likely Valverde replacement, it’s not hard to see why. Erik ten Hag has proven himself to be an effective manager, and is within an arms reach of delivering Ajax their first Eredivisie title in five seasons. Most importantly, he has elevated Ajax's European game to new heights, taking them all the way to the Champions League semi finals and defeating the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus en route. If he was able to achieve this feat with the European underdogs that are Ajax, there is no telling what he would be able to achieve in the managerial seat at the Camp Nou.