By Wayne Veysey

3rd Mar, 2017 | 2:03pm

Guillem Balague shares what could swing Barca bid to prise Pochettino from Barcelona

By Alex Stevens

Mauricio Pochettino “ticks all the boxes” for Barcelona but his long Tottenham contract could be a decisive factor in their pursuit.

That is the verdict of Spanish football expert Guillem Balague as he assessed the candidates to take over from Luis Enrique at the Nou Camp this summer.

In a column for Yahoo Sport, Balague names Pochettino as one of the leading contenders, along with Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli, Athletic Bilbao’s Ernesto Valverde, Everton boss Ronald Koeman and current Enrique assistant Juan Carlos Unzue.

The Mirror reported on Friday that the £5.5million-a-year contract Pochettino signed last May, which runs until 2021, has put the London club in a strong position to fight off interest in their manager.

Balague agrees that the cost of prising the Argentine from White Hart Lane is key and is partly why he regards Valverde as the favourite to replace Enrique.

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“From a purely playing and man management point of view, Sampaoli of Sevilla certainly fits the bill,” wrote Balague in his Yahoo column. “He is however perhaps a little too controversial and not quite the profile off the pitch that will resonate with the ‘men in suits’ that will eventually make the decision.

“Mauricio Pochettino of Spurs ticks the same boxes but both men are more than currently occupied with their present clubs and in truth Barcelona would much rather look to either a free agent or at least someone who is coming to the end of their contract.

“Koeman, another former player and now in the hot seat at Everton, has also been suggested as of course has Unzue, the current assistant manager.

“My money however would go on Valverde, a former Barcelona player, and currently in charge at Bilbao, although coming to the end of his contract.”.

Pochettino, who celebrated his 45th birthday on Thursday, has publicly stressed he is settled and happy at Tottenham even though the club have a playing budget dwarfed by that of their rivals.

He has transformed Spurs into a top-four club since his arrival from Southampton in 2014, but has yet to secure the silverware to match his impressive overhaul.

Tottenham finished third last season after strongly challenging for the title and are second in the Premier League league ahead of their clash against Everton on Sunday.

In other Tottenham transfer news, a forward has signed after Spurs agreed terms on an out-of-window deal.

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