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Enrique and Martino 'Barca favourites'

Reports in Spain say former Barcelona B manager Luis Enrique and Argentine Gerardo 'Tata' Martino are favourites to replace Tito Vilanova after he stood down as Barcelona coach last week.

- Hunter: Vilanova is one of the good guys

Vilanova was forced to quit in order to continue receiving treatment for throat cancer, and speculation about who might take over, with the new season looming, is gathering pace.

El Mundo Deportivo says a number of managers have put themselves forward for the role since the club announced Vilanova’s decision to step down on Friday. The paper says they include Spurs coach Andre Villas-Boas and former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.

However, Swansea’s Michael Laudrup, ex-Barca defender Ronald Koeman and retired former Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes have all moved to rule themselves out of the running.

The four main sports dailies - AS, Marca, El Mundo Deportivo and Sport - are in agreement that the favourites to replace Vilanova are Enrique and Martino.  

Enrique, who only joined Celta Vigo as manager in the summer following a season at Roma, is familiar with the Barcelona set-up, having spent eight years in the Catalan capital as a player and three years as manager of Barca B.

The 43-year-old had initially been considered the hot favourite for the role, but reports from Argentina suggest former Newell’s Old Boys manager Martino has emerged as a surprise name on the two-man shortlist.

The Barcelona board are keeping their cards close to their chests, but there are rumours that the new manager could be announced as early as Tuesday. Martino, 50, who also spent time at Tenerife during his playing career, has coached a number of club sides and the Paraguay national team, but is currently without a job. He was voted South American coach of the year in 2007.

Marca suggests that Martino’s appointment would be popular with his compatriot Lionel Messi, who began his youth career at Newell’s before heading to Barcelona at the age of 13, and Messi’s father, Jorge, who counts ‘El Tata’ as one of his football idols.

The paper quotes Elvio Paolorroso, who has worked with Martino as a strength and conditioning coach for 14 years, as saying: "Tata, as boss of the entire technical team began conversations and, when something serious happens, he will communicate with us.

"I spoke with him today, and he told me he would call me tonight. I don’t like to pressure him and we aren't the type to ask about everything. He is the one who decides where we go and the labour relations."

After Newell’s Old Boys won the Clausura title under Martino last season, Messi said of his countryman: “I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach. He gets his teams playing well, and all the players respect him.”

It seems the Argentine coach could fit in well at the Camp Nou, with Sport calling him a ‘Bielsista’. Former Athletic Bilbao manager Marcelo Bielsa had huge influence on Pep Guardiola, and Bielsa's footballing philosophy of possession and pressing are the cornerstones of the 'Barca way’. 


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