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Report: Red Bull Salzburg's Oscar Garcia denies contact with Barcelona

No vacancy at Salzburg. Yet.

Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Earlier this year, it was rumored New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch had jumped ship for his team's European sibling, Red Bull Salzburg. It didn't happen, and there were two very good reasons to believe it was never a realistic possibility: Marsch isn't really qualified to run a top-flight Euro club with Champions League ambitions, and Salzburg's current head coach - Oscar Garcia - is under contract until the summer of 2018.

But Marsch is working on the qualifications issue: he's enrolled in the UEFA Pro License course, which is an unusual credential for an American coach to seek, but not at all unusual for a coach hoping to one day work at a high level in Europe.

And the rumor mill is working on creating a vacancy at Salzburg.

Oscar Garcia's name is increasingly linked to bigger clubs than Salzburg, to the point where it is starting to feel like he might not be in Austria for much longer.

Most recently, Garcia's name came up in connection with one of the biggest clubs in world soccer: Barcelona. It is the club at which he made his name as a player, and where he also served as a youth team coach - and he's stated in the past that he wouldn't say no the job. Not the craziest rumor ever suggested.

But Garcia has firmly denied the story, telling Salzburger Nachrichten there had been no contact between him and his old club, and reiterating the fact that he still has a year to run with RB Salzburg.

He also mentioned, however, that managing Salzburg is not the easiest job in soccer:

This season alone, nine players have left. This is why there is no routine. This is always a new challenge.

Among those nine players: Naby Keita, now starring for sibling club RB Leipzig; highly-rated teenage defender Dayot Upemecano, transferred to Leipzig in the winter window; and star striker Jonathan Soriano, who got a too-good-to-refuse offer to play in China in mid-season.

Salzburg is a selling club, and the off-season will surely bring a fresh round of departures, and the task of putting a new team together will commence. As it happens, however, it is a task Garcia is quite good at: Salzburg is currently 14 points clear at the top of the Austrian Bundesliga, and it has an Austrian Cup semifinal to play on April 26. In his first season (he took over Salzburg in the middle of the last campaign), Garcia led Salzburg to a league and Cup double - he is charting the same course this time around.

Salzburg is a selling club because Red Bull has long reasoned that Austrian soccer simply isn't a big enough stage for the world's best players. The team tries to find the best young players it can, win whatever there is to be won in Austria, and then sell them on for the revenue that will fund the next round of acquisitions. There is a ready market for Salzburg players because there is growing supply of them making an impact at the higher levels of the global game, including Liverpool's Sadio Mane, Leipzig's Keita, and Guangzhou Evergrande's Alan Carvalho.

Just as Salzburg players are in-demand all over Europe, so too are its coaches. The RalfBall era of Red Bull soccer began in 2012, and one of Ralf Rangnick's first moves as sporting director of both Salzburg and Leipzig was to replace double-winning Salzburg coach Ricardo Moniz with Roger Schmidt, who had just guided Paderborn to a respectable fifth-place finish in 2. Bundesliga.

Schmidt needed a year to figure things out, but won the Austrian double in his second season in charge at Salzburg: the 2013-14 season. He then moved on to Bayer Leverkusen. His replacement, Adi Hutter, won the league and cup titles in 2014-15, and then quit the club - citing an amicable but irrevocable difference of opinion with its leadership. After Hutter, Peter Zeidler had a brief stint as head coach, but was dismissed by December 2015, and replaced by Garcia, who has continued what has become a double-winning tradition at Salzburg.

Hutter and Zeidler, incidentally, went on to take head coaching jobs at BSC Young Boys and FC Sion - currently second and third in the Swiss Super League table.

Salzburg is a stepping stone for players and coaches alike. Garcia isn't leaving just yet, but he surely will sooner rather than later. And then it will be the turn of someone else to see if they can scoop up an Austrian double with Salzburg.

By the way, Jesse Marsch should have his UEFA Pro Licence by the summer of 2018.