It’s official: Luis Enrique will leave Barcelona at the end of the season. The Asturian coach had been brushing aside talk of a contract renewal for months and on March 1st he announced that this will be his final season at Camp Nou.
There is no surprise about that. The 46-year-old has appeared tired of life at the Catalan club for some time and said after the 6-1 win over Sporting Gijón: “I need a rest. That is the main reason I am not going to continue.”
So many Barcelona fans’ wishes have been granted. Their abuse and vitriol in recent weeks for a man who has served their team for 14 years as player, Barça B trainer and first-team coach is not only ungrateful in the extreme, but also a sad reflection of modern football.
No, Luis Enrique is not perfect. But he transformed a team on its knees after a season of disappointment under Gerardo Martino and he won a treble. That has only been achieved eight times in the history of football, with Barça the sole side to have done it twice. And one of those belongs to Luis Enrique.
In total, he has won eight trophies (out of a possible 10) so far and that makes him the third-most successful coach in the history of FC Barcelona. So surely he deserves a little more love and respect.
Pep Guardiola claimed 14 titles (out of a possible 19) between 2008 and 2012, while Johan Cruyff brought home 11 trophies in his reign, which ran from 1988 to 1996.
But while Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ and Guardiola’s great side will go down in Barça folklore, there should also be a place for Luis Enrique as well.
“As a Barça fan I am so sad because we are going to miss the perfect trainer for Barcelona, for his personality and character,” Guardiola said on hearing the news. “In his two or three years he played unbelievable football with unbelievable players.”
Pep knows a thing or two, of course. And there may yet be more to come as Barça are alive in the Champions League after their thrilling comeback against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night, still in contention to win La Liga and face Alavés in the final of the Copa del Rey at the end of this season.
Whatever happens, Luis Enrique will end his reign among the three most successful Barça bosses – perhaps with a better success ratio than even Guardiola – and he has had to cope with the departure of Xavi (considered by many the greatest midfielder in the history of football) after the treble triumph in 2015.
So while this team may not be quite as brilliant in style terms as Guardiola’s great side, Barça – as Pep himself said – are still very good to watch and they have also enjoyed spectacular success under Luis Enrique.
The disgruntled fans would do well to remember all of that…