EN­RIQUE HAS HAD ENOUGH

Barca man­ager to step down af­ter three years in charge

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA coach Luis En­rique is leav­ing the Span­ish La Liga champions at the end of the sea­son when his con­tract ex­pires af­ter three tro­phy-laden sea­sons at the club.

Luis En­rique made the an­nounce­ment at a news con­fer­ence af­ter Barca thrashed Sport­ing Gi­jon 6-1 at the Nou Camp on Wed­nes­day to keep up their bid for a third league ti­tle un­der the man­age­ment of their for­mer mid­fielder.

“I would like to thank the club for the con­fi­dence they have shown in me, it’s been three un­for­get­table years,” said Luis En­rique who suc­ceeded Ger­ardo Martino in 2014.

Luis En­rique said he had met with Barca di­rec­tors Al­bert Soler and Robert Fer­nan­dez be­fore this sea­son to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of not re­new­ing his con­tract. “They told me there was no hurry to make a de­ci­sion, but now that mo­ment has ar­rived,” he added.

“This is a very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion for me which I have thought about for a very long time but I think I have to be loyal and do what I think is right.”

Barca top the stand­ings on 57 points, one ahead of arch-ri­vals Real Madrid who have played one game fewer.

Luis En­rique has also led his team to the King’s Cup fi­nal but suf­fered heavy crit­i­cism af­ter Barcelona were crushed 4-0 by Paris St Ger­main in their Champions League last 16 first-leg game two weeks ago.

Luis En­rique fol­lowed in the foot­steps of for­mer team­mate Pep Guardi­ola in lead­ing Barca to the tre­ble in his first sea­son in charge, although his reign has also wit­nessed tur­bu­lent mo­ments.

The coach was re­ported to be on the brink of dis­missal in Jan­uary 2015 due to his rocky re­la­tion­ship with Lionel Messi af­ter leav­ing the Ar­gen­tine talisman out of the start­ing line-up.

While he has over­seen spec­tac­u­lar foot­ball, fired by the pro­lific at­tack­ing part­ner­ship of Messi, Ney­mar and Luis Suarez, Luis En­rique has been crit­i­cised for aban­don­ing the team’s style of play per­fected by Guardi­ola which was geared around con­trolled pos­ses­sion in mid­field.

He bore the brunt of crit­i­cism for the har­row­ing de­feat by PSG which has left Barca on the brink of their ear­li­est elim­i­na­tion from the Champions League in a decade.

Luis En­rique said he had be­come ex­hausted from the con­stant pres­sure that comes with the Barca job and needed time out to re­cover, echo­ing Guardi­ola’s words when he stepped down in 2012.

“In my work I am con­stantly look­ing for so­lu­tions and that means I get no time to rest, I need to rest and that’s my main mo­tive for leav­ing,” he said.

Guardi­ola paid trib­ute to his for­mer team­mate.

“With Luis En­rique’s farewell, fans lose some­one who was the perfect coach for Barcelona. The foot­ball in the last three years has been in­cred­i­ble,” the Manch­ester City man­ager said on Twit­ter.

Mid­fielder Ivan Rakitic said he and the rest of the Barca squad were taken aback when Luis En­rique re­vealed the news to them in the dress­ing-room.

“We knew noth­ing about it,” Rakitic told Croa­t­ian me­dia. “First he told the team about his de­ci­sion We were left stunned and at a loss for words. We want to end the sea­son suc­cess­fully and en­joy what is left.”

Barca pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu also praised the de­part­ing coach.

“We’re very happy with the work he has done up to now and we have to ac­cept his de­ci­sion and sup­port him. Luis En­rique will leave in the sum­mer and we’ve had a su­per coach for the last three years,” he said.

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