Former Spain international Luis Enrique announced yesterday that this season would be his last as manager of Barcelona.
Enrique got his start as a manager in 2008 with Barcelona B, taking charge of the reserve side four years after the end of his playing career. He then spent a season at Roma and another at Celta Vigo before his appointment at the Camp Nou in 2014. Since taking over from Tata Martino, Barcelona have won two La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, and one Champions League title. Not a bad return for three seasons, all things considered.
His announcement came after his side gave a dominant performance by beating Sporting Gijón 6-1. The result, coupled with Real Madrid dropping points to Las Palmas, sent Barcelona back to the top of La Liga. Reporters cornered him after the game for what they assumed would be routine post-match commentary.
Instead, they got this:
”I won’t be at Barcelona next season. I need to rest. I would like to thank the club for the confidence they have shown in me. It’s been three unforgettable years. It’s a very difficult decision for me, one I’ve thought about a lot, but I think I need to be true to myself and fair to my way of thinking.”
”In the pre-season I had a meeting with [Barcelona sporting director] Albert Soler and [club technical secretary] Robert Fernández where I mooted the possibility that I might not renew my contract. They told me there was no rush to take the decision. That moment has arrived. I’m announcing it. The reason is I live my work looking for solutions and it gives me little time to rest. I’d like to thank the club for the confidence they’ve shown in me over my time. They gave me the chance to coach the B team, I did that, and these three years have been unforgettable. I thank the club for all the support and professionalism and I’m not forgetting there are still three incredible months to go.”
The decision comes after an uptick in criticism this season, which reached a new level of intensity after Barcelona were thrashed 4-0 in their first leg tie against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League Round of 16. They’re still the favorites to win the Copa del Rey this season and are in a very strong position in the league, but the loss to PSG was, for some fans, unforgivable.
Sevilla’s Jorge Sampaoli is the likely favorite to succeed Enrique, while other mooted candidates include Ronald Koeman, Arsène Wenger, Jürgen Klopp. Don’t be surprised if the club doesn’t name a successor until after the end of the season.