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Luis Enrique announced this week that he’s stepping down as Barcelona manager at the end of this season. What kind of legacy does he leave, and who would best replace him? Bernie & Alex discuss:
Is Luis Enrique deserving of the criticism that has come his way?
Bernie: A bit like Claudio Ranieri, this situation is deeper than just performances. It seems the players are not on board with his tactics or his training methods. However, since Pep and Tito the Barcelona players have underperformed under Tata Martino and now Luis Enrique. In Enrique’s case they have largely underperformed yet won the treble and the double. This season Real Madrid are trying to hand the title to the Catalans. Messi might be carrying the team but Enrique is doing something right while his players let him down. I’d say Enrique’s problems are mostly the fault of others. Players failing to perform is tough to fix. The people giving him players like Alcacaer, Jeremy Matthieu and Andre Gomes should be out of a job. He’s done a good job and doesn’t deserve to leave in shame.
Alex: You’re right, definitely a deeper situation here and I tend to have a good deal of sympathy for all Barcelona mangers (unless it one day becomes Ronald Koeman – he is a block of cheese) because politically the club is a nightmare. The board are a shambles, you’re dealing with the influence of Messi and his father, the media are ferocious and a good deal of the fan base seem to freak out at every imperfect result. Meanwhile, the guy has – as you say Bernie – won a treble and a double. And Barcelona may still win La Liga this year. Luis Enrique isn’t perfect – I don’t think he will ever be the man manager that someone like Ancelotti is, but I think he’s earned the right to a dignified exit whatever happens, now.
Is Luis Enrique tactically flexible or anti tiki-taka?
Alex: I doubt he’d describe himself as “pro” or “anti tiki-taka”, but he’s certainly shown that he isn’t overly dogmatic. Luis Enrique has tried to play progressive football wherever he’s coached and people are quick to forget the dazzling stuff Barcelona played during their treble and double wins. You can chalk as much of that as you like up to Messi, Neymar & Suarez but it’s the coach’s job to create an environment in which players like that thrive, and Luis Enrique did that.
Bernie: I don’t believe he’s into tiki-taka. However, I dont think that’s a bad thing at all. He’d have seen how Bayern completely mauled Barcelona on their way to Champions League glory. He probably sees that Barcelona no longer have the players to play that system so he’s tried something different and by all accounts it’s worked. The players don’t seem to like it but they can shove it! Moving away from tiki-taka doesn’t always mean bad football so the critics can pipe down, now. Luis Enrique didn’t strike me as the tiki-taka type of player that Van Gaal moulded the way he did Guardiola so it’s no surprise that he’s not as invested in that philosophy.
Who should take over?
Alex: I wouldn’t want to see him leave the Premier League and he’s an Espanyol man through-and-through, allegedly, but Pochettino would be fascinating, especially if the club is looking for someone to bring youth development back to the fore. Beyond that, Sampaoli is a leading candidate but I wonder whether Barcelona may look internally, again. Definitely not Ronald Koeman. He looks like a baby-bell.
Bernie: Alex, I like Sampaoli but I don’t see him fitting at Barcelona or them going for him. Pochettino could make the move given his penchant for developing youth and lord knows La Masia needs a kick up the backside. However, as you rightly mentioned, his Espanyol connections might work against him. I’m going for Bilbao’s Ernesto Valverde. He seems to fit the post-Guardiola Barcelona bill better. A talented attacking coach who will sit there do as he’s told while the directors of football purchase the players. Pochettino may just want too much control to be considered. As for Koeman…NO!
Well, we certainly agree about one thing, at least.
Look out for another Throwdown next week and in the meantime give us a shout on Twitter and let us know your thoughts on Luis Enrique, and the next move for Barcelona.