Celta Vigo coach Luis Enrique is on the verge of a summer switch to Barcelona and hopes to make Lionel Messi the central piece in the Catalan club's new sporting project.
The former Barca B boss, who played for the Blaugrana between 1996 and 2004, met with sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta last week at his house in the seaside town of Gava, and Goal Spain reports he is now in pole position to take over at Camp Nou at the end of the season.
Current coach Gerardo Martino is set on leaving Barcelona following a season blighted by problems off the pitch, including the controversy surrounding Neymar's move to the club, Sandro Rosell's resignation and the tragic passing of former boss Tito Vilanova late last month.
Luis Enrique was considered for the coach's job when Vilanova stepped down because of health concerns last July, but the Asturian had already taken over at Celta and Barca opted for Martino instead.
But after a successful season which has seen the Galician side impress following a slow start, Luis Enrique's reputation has grown and the northern outfit sit in eighth place in the Primera Division after beating Real Madrid 2-0 on Sunday.
The former Spain midfielder has refused to comment on a possible move, but said Sunday: "I would like Barcelona to win La Liga. I have no reason to hide that."
Asked about Luis Enrique after Barca's 0-0 draw at Elche, Zubizarreta said: "Luis Enrique is a great coach for Celta and I won't talk about him while we're fighting for La Liga."
Zubizarreta had originally planned to appoint fellow Basque Ernesto Valverde, but the Athletic Bilbao boss told his former teammate he was happy at San Mames after steering the team into the Champions League next season.
So Zubizarreta switched his attentions to Luis Enrique, but the 44-year-old is by no means a unanimous choice at board room level and club directors remain divided over the appointment of the former Spain star.
One positive piece of news for Barca fans, however, is that the Celta coach hopes to build a new sporting project around Messi, with the Argentine as the focal point in a side which will aim to play to the strengths of the four-time Ballon d'Or winner. He has endured a difficult season in 2013-14 because of injury and a dip in form compared to his brilliance in previous campaigns.
- Sports & Recreation
- Andoni Zubizarreta
- Lionel Messi
- Celta Vigo