The assistant coach had been in the running to replace Luis Enrique in the summer, but the Catalan club are now set to look elsewhere
Barcelona assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzue has been all but ruled out for the top job at Camp Nou after a training ground row with Neymar this week, Goal understands.
Unzue was keen to take over from Luis Enrique when the current boss walks away in the summer and he had the support of many of the players because they believe he would be easier to influence than any new arrival.
However, an incident in training this week involving Neymar has set alarm bells ringing in Catalunya, as it was reported in Spain that the assistant coach tried to motivate the Brazilian by citing the example of Ronaldinho as a top player who did not give enough during his later years at Barca.
That did not go down at all well with the 25-year-old and it has been claimed that following a heated exchange, Neymar shouted: “If he stays, I’ll go.”
Luis Enrique announced his decision to leave Barca at the beginning of March and Unzue was among the names considered by the Catalan club to succeed the former Spain midfielder.
Asked later that month in an interview with radio station RAC1 if he would be joining Luis Enrique for bike rides next year, he said: “I hope I won’t have time for the bike.”
That response was seen as a hint that he was seeking to take over from his long-time friend, but even before the Neymar incident, Barca’s interest in hiring him for the role of head coach had cooled considerably.
Unzue, a former Sevilla goalkeeper who also had a two-year spell at Barca and represented Spain at Under-21 level, is not seen to have the necessary authority at Camp Nou and the row with Neymar only served to highlight those concerns.
Unzue is also responsible for strategy at dead-ball situations and Barca have not excelled in that respect at either end of the pitch in 2016-17, conceding around one third of their goals from set-pieces while at the same time not scoring enough in spite of all of their attacking quality.
With Unzue seemingly out of the picture, Athletic Club coach Ernesto Valverde is the leading candidate to replace Luis Enrique, although the Basque boss refused to confirm he was leaving Bilbao at a press conference on Friday.
“It’s the last game of the season at San Mames,” he said when asked about his future ahead of the game against Leganes. “Not just for me, for Gorka [Iraizoz, the goalkeeper who is definitely leaving this summer] and some others, we don’t know for whom, but definitely for Gorka.”
Valverde has not signed a new contract with Athletic and remains Barca’s first choice to succeed Luis Enrique, but Unzue is likely to be on his bike after all following the spat with Neymar this week.