Andres Iniesta says he and his Barcelona teammates are all 100 percent behind coach Gerardo Martino as speculation mounts that the Argentine’s days in the job are numbered.
In the aftermath of Barca’s 2-0 Champions League win at Manchester City last week, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu had said Martino would be offered a contract extension regardless of whether the team won a major trophy this season.
However, the manner of the 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad on Saturday night has changed the mood around the club considerably, with apparent leaks from inside the dressing room claiming players had been baffled by the team selection and tactics for such a tough game at Anoeta.
Even before that match, Martino had himself been vague when asked about that potential new contract offer, saying he had not yet started to think about next season. The 51-year-old signed a two-year deal when taking charge at short notice in the summer, but both he and the club are believed to have the option of parting ways once the current season ends.
Catalan daily Sport claimed on Wednesday morning that Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta had already compiled a five-man shortlist of possible successors to Martino.
The list apparently features the names of Athletic Bilbao’s Ernesto Valverde, Celta Vigo’s Luis Enrique, Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp, Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone and former Chelsea and Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas.
The article, which also cites Everton’s Roberto Martinez and Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Montella as potential options, claims Villas-Boas is favoured by some of the Camp Nou hierarchy due to perceived similarities with Guardiola.
However, Iniesta said at a sponsors’ event that, although the performance at the weekend needed to be addressed, the Barca squad remain fully behind Martino.
“The players are with the coach to the death,” Iniesta said in quotes reported by Marca. “We are all responsible, and the players are the ones who play the games. The coach trusts in the squad to win. It was a tough defeat. It must be analysed and conclusions must be drawn.”
Meanwhile, Alexis Sanchez has said it has been difficult to see so many coaches leave the club since his arrival from Udinese in 2011. The Chile international arrived at the Camp Nou during Pep Guardiola’s reign, and has since played under Tito Vilanova, interim boss Jordi Roura and now Martino.
“A player matures with different managers, they teach you things,” Alexis told his club’s official website. “It’s a shame there have been managers that have had to leave because of personal issues. I was happy to work under them and to learn from them.”