Arsenal reportedly believe that they have an advantage over cross town rivals Chelsea in the race for former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique.
According a report in the Mirror, Arsenal and Chelsea are both considering a number of alternatives for the top jobs at their respective clubs. Arsene Wenger recently revealed that he would step down at the end of the season, while Antonio Conte has been widely tipped to leave the SW6 as well.
The report states that former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique is a possible candidate for both clubs and the Gunners are under the impression that if it ever came to a point where they would have to compete with the Blues for his signature, they have an advantage in the form of Raul Sanllehi.
Sanllehi is Arsenal’s Head of Football Relations and he joined the North Londoners back in November last year. Before taking up the job at the Emirates, the 49-year-old has spent 14 years at Barcelona, having worked closely alongside Luis Enrique during his time as manager of the club.
A hugely influential figure in Spanish football during his time with the Catalan giants, Arsenal reportedly believe that his close relationship with the former AS Roma boss would give them a considerable advantage over their rivals in any potential discussions with 47-year-old.
Enrique, who has played for Sporting Gijon, Real Madrid and Barcelona over the course of a career spanning 15 years, is expected to command around £15 million per season – not something the Gunners will be too eager to pay but Sanllehi reportedly believes that it is an obstacle that can be overcome.
A serial winner in both his managerial and playing career, Enrique won 10 major titles during his days as a midfielder and after taking over at Barcelona, he led them to 9 major titles in three seasons, including a treble in his very first season at the club.
After a season away from the job, he should be back refreshed and would be a good fit at Arsenal. An advocate of attractive, beautiful, possession-based football similar to that of Wenger’s, Enrique will be just the man they need to usher in a new era at the club while also helping the club hold onto their identity.
Should Enrique opt for a move to North London in the summer, Chelsea’s managerial shortlist would be shortened even further. Carlo Ancelloti has reportedly been offered the Italian National team job, while Thomas Tuchel is set to take over at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season.
Incidentally, Antonio Conte was the favourite for both the PSG and Italy job. However, with Chelsea in the FA Cup final and still within five points of the Champions League places with four games left to play, the Blues still stand a good chance of salvaging some of their pride this season.
It is unlikely that the former Juventus boss will be let go if Chelsea qualify for the Champions League. He remains one of the best managers in the world and is a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge. If he leaves, it will be with his reputation enhanced.
Sacking the Italian will take Chelsea back to square one and all his good work at the club would have been undone. Given their remaining options, the Blues will be better off allowing Conte to see out the last season of his three-year contract before taking a call in 2019. That would give Arsenal a free run at Enrique, and we could well see the former Barcelona manager make his way to the Emirates.