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Next Barcelona manager: Five contenders

Sports Mole assesses five of the early frontrunners to become the new head coach of Spanish champions Barcelona.

Yesterday evening Barcelona confirmed that their head coach Tito Vilanova was to step down from his position with immediate effect.

The Spaniard took the decision to concentrate on his health, having recently battled against throat cancer on two occasions.

The La Liga champions have since indicated that they plan to name his replacement next week and with that in mind, Sports Mole has picked out five of the early candidates.

AS Roma Spanish coach Luis Enrique during the Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and Catania on May 5, 2012© AP Photos
Luis Enrique
Barcelona showed with both Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova that they like to promote from within. If they adopt the same approach this time around, there will be few better suitors than Enrique.

He made over 300 appearances during his playing career for the Catalans and then took over as manager of Barcelona B when Guardiola was handed the main job. He had a mixed spell in charge of Roma, but is still highly thought of at the Camp Nou.

Having just agreed to take charge of Celta Vigo, on the face it a switch would be difficult. However, over the last few hours a large number of bets has seen his odds drop from 25/1 to odds-on favourite.

Odds: 4/5

Gerardo Martino© PA Photos
Gerardo Martino
While the Argentine has yet to prove himself in Europe, back in South America he is viewed as a highly impressive coach.

The 50-year-old has won four league titles in Paraguayan football, as well as guiding Newell's Old Boys (the club where Lionel Messi started his career) to success in his homeland last season.

He also has international experience, having coached the Paraguay national side for five years up until 2011.

Odds: 5/1

Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup during the match against Chelsea on January 23, 2013© PA Photos
Michael Laudrup
The Dane recently admitted that he had turned down a couple of big clubs earlier this summer to remain with Swansea City. Barcelona are a completely different animal though.

He spent five years there as a player and was part of a side that included the likes of Hristo Stoichkov and Ronald Koeman that went on to win four La Liga titles and one European Cup.

He's still admired at the club and his style of play would also suit the current Barca squad.

Odds: 10/1

Marcelo Bielsa© PA Photos
Marcelo Bielsa
Where South American football is concerned, there are not many coaches that are more highly thought of than Bielsa.

The 57-year-old has managed both the Argentinian and Chilean international sides, as well as clubs in those respective countries.

What's more, he showed that he can produce the goods in Spanish football and in sometimes difficult circumstances at Athletic Bilbao. In 2012 he guided the Lions to the final of the Copa del Rey and Europa League - a competition that they knocked Manchester United out of in style.

Currently out of work, Barca would not have to pay any compensation for his services.

Odds: 12/1

Frank de Boer© PA Photos
Frank de Boer
Another former Barca player, De Boer spent four years at the Camp Nou until 2003.

His spell may not have been the most successful in terms of medals, but he still made an impression on the Catalan faithful.

The ex Netherlands international has also proved himself to be a very capable coach with Ajax in recent years. The 43-year-old has guided the Dutch outfit to the last three Eredivisie titles.

The only sticking point may be a fee for his services because his contract with Ajax is not due to expire until 2017.

Odds: 16/1

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Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup during the match against Spurs on March 30, 2013
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Copa America
CAtletico MadridAtletico38268467254286
2Real Madrid38259467283984
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RReal Valladolid38516173457-2331

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