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Ronald Koeman has received a stay of execution as Barcelona boss for now, but the speculation over his replacement will not go away and an attractive list of candidates has now materialized. The beleaguered Dutchman saw his team go down 2-0 away at Atletico Madrid to fall five points off the pace being set by Diego Simeone's men and bitter rivals Real Madrid along with Real Sociedad.

Barca can cut that gap to two points but Sevilla also have a game in hand and can pull level with Real, Atleti and Sociedad so the summit is substantially far enough away at this time. 

La Liga is not the only concern either with a pair of 3-0 UEFA Champions League defeats to Bayern Munich and now Benfica arguably the more pressing issue. You can catch all of Barcelona's UCL matches on Paramount+.

Koeman has certainly had no shortage of obstacles to overcome, not least losing Lionel Messi and dealing with a mounting list of injuries, but the legendary former player has been on borrowed time for a while.

We look at the potential replacements.

1. Xavi

The obvious place to start is the legendary midfielder turned coach who is currently learning his trade in Qatar with Al Sadd where he finished his playing career.

While the Qatar Stars League is not an obvious place to go hunting for the ideal candidate to rebuild Barca in extremely testing conditions and lead the club back to glory, the Blaugrana have a history of turning to those familiar with the club and its workings.

That was the idea when Koeman got the nod after Quique Setien's short-lived spell after Ernesto Valverde's dismissal and although it has not worked out, there is a feeling that Xavi's return could bring the sort of energy that veteran like the Dutchman lacks despite his obvious lack of experience.

2. Roberto Martinez

An alternative to Xavi with a deeper resume in the coaching game is Roberto Martinez who is currently Belgium's head coach.

Although Swansea City, Wigan Athletic and Everton are not the sorts of clubs that can uttered in the same breath as Barca, the Catalan giants need somebody who will not come in expecting to find top quality in every position.

Martinez, 48, has a history of nurturing undervalued Spanish talents in the Premier League and will be forced to rely heavily on La Masia if he does get the nod.

However, many will question whether he has the necessary credentials at such a high level after five years out of the club game.

3. Marcelo Gallardo

A name which keeps materializing on many European shortlists is that of River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo and after years of working wonders in his native Argentina, the 45-year-old finally appears ready to take the leap.

However, for the former Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco and DC United man to make that switch, it will require a club which is ready to gamble on a coach with no European experience as a coach and with no prior knowledge or experience of the club.

The same could be said of Martinez, but at least he hails from Catalonia so already has a feel for the region surrounding the club and its uniqueness.

4. Andrea Pirlo

If Barca are ready to gamble, they could look at the former Italy international after his recent stint with Juventus and while it was far from impressive, the scenarios are different and there is an argument to be made that Pirlo could place an emphasis on style.

That said, the 42-year-old would also need to adapt to a new country and the cultural challenges which go with this and would not be an obvious choice to hit the ground running unless he surrounds himself with a very strong staffing body.

5. Robert Moreno

The Granada CF coach recently declared that he would go on his "knees" to Barcelona if they ever called but the 44-year-old has been struggling to get to grips with his new role and was under pressure until a recent win over Sevilla lifted them out of the relegation zone.

Working in his favor is a spell as Luis Enrique's assistant and the fact that he is Catalan, but he does not have a playing history to speak of and has not had the same dynamic rise as other young bosses such as Bayern Munich's Julian Nagelsmann.

Considering his recent history with Spain, Monaco and now Granada, he is not exactly a frontrunner for the role -- even though he remains highly thought of at Camp Nou.

6. Wild-card options

Perhaps it will take an even riskier move to break Barca out of their current predicament and there is no shortage of well-wishers with Yaya Toure the latest former player to offer his services and Thierry Henry also currently back in the punditry game after spells in Monaco and Montreal.  

There are also other names further afield such as Laurent Blanc with Al Rayyan who has experience as a coach with PSG but also spent time with the club as a player and is not completely foreign to the environment and the Frenchman would offer a very good stylistic fit too.

Whoever Barca do eventually move to replace Koeman with will have to be prepared to walk into one of the most challenging jobs of their career.