Barcelona have reportedly identified former Everton manager Roberto Martinez as a potential replacement for Ernesto Valverde, who is set to be axed.

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde could soon find himself out of a job as the La Liga champions are considering sacking him. And they already seem to have a replacement lined up for the former Athletic Bilbao boss, with Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez emerging as a front-runner to take over the reins, according to a report from Sport (h/t The Sun).

Barcelona successfully retained their La Liga crown, with a comfortable 11-point lead over second placed Atletico Madrid. However, despite their league triumph, the season left quite a bitter taste for the Catalans as they crashed out of the UEFA Champions League at the semi-final stage and tasted defeated in the Copa del Rey final as well.

Barcelona had taken a three-goal lead against Liverpool in the semi-final first leg at Camp Nou, but collapsed to a humiliating 4-0 defeat in the second leg at Anfield, leading to them getting eliminated from the competition. And on the final day of the season, Valverde’s side were beaten 2-1 by Valencia in the Copa del Rey final, rubbing salt into the wound for the club.

Set to be sacked? (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Set to be sacked? (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu had come out in support of Valverde, while club captain Lionel Messi had also backed the 55-year-old to continue as the manager beyond this season. However, as per latest developments, the Catalans are reportedly ready to axe the Spaniard and have already identified several candidates as potential replacements.

Massimiliano Allegri, who bid adieu to Juventus is among the shortlisted candidates, as is Arsenal manager Unai Emery. However, Roberto Martinez seems to be at the top of Barcelona’s wishlist as per the report, with the Catalans already establishing contact with the Spaniard to enquire his availability.

Martinez, 45, started out his managerial career with Swansea City leading them to the Championship from League One, before enjoying a four-year stint with Wigan Athletic during which he won an FA Cup. He then took over the reins at Everton in 2013 and had mixed success with the Toffees, before eventually vacating the post in 2016.

The next Barcelona manager? (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP/Getty Images)

The next Barcelona manager? (Photo credit should read Dirk Waem/AFP/Getty Images)

Immediately after, Martinez was named the manager of the Belgium national team where he has done some exemplary work, enjoying a 74.3% win ratio (26 wins in 35 matches). The 45-year-old led the Red Devils to the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and a subsequent third-place finish.

Someone who is influenced by the Johan Cruyff philosophy, Martinez sets his teams up to play possession-based slick, attacking football, which would be welcomed at Barcelona. However, his lack of experience with a big club would be a problem, although he has done very well with the Belgian national team.

It remains to be seen if there is any development to this story or if Barcelona choose to pursue someone else like Allegri, who is unattached. But, as far as Valverde is concerned, his time at Camp Nou seems to be nearing an end.

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