Throughout the past three years I have been asking myself questions and only now have I reached the answers. It took a close study of all the football fans around me. From Barcelona fans to rival fans, I have listened to everyone and tried to fully understand everyone. The subject was too confusing.
How could one of the club’s most successful coaches be so disregarded, disrespected, and discredited? How does it occur that a vast majority in the world considers themselves better tacticians and coaches than a professional coach who actually excelled at his job by the historic standards of football? After close observations of the iconic club’s fans and rival fans from around the world I have come to many conclusions which all circulate around one concept:
It was never about the coach.
Let me explain.
Barcelona fans will never truly accept a different style of football nor will they decide to take some time to understand it. This idea goes way back. Throughout the very successful stage of Luis Enrique’s Barcelona, I have always heard phrases like “we have no midfield”. Midfield is possibly the most complex concept in football. Yet any conversation about Barcelona’s midfield can be summarized, after hours of discussion, into: “If it doesn’t play like Pep’s midfield, it’s not a midfield”. With the wide knowledge in all of the sport that many Barcelona fans claim to have they still choose to represent what a midfield should or should not using 4 years of the Pep era as reference. They will not look at other clubs as reference because that’s against the ‘identity’ even though they use a term that supposedly applies to all of the sport: midfield.
More accurate descriptions could have been:
“I do not like how this midfield plays”.
“This midfield doesn’t circulate the ball around enough”.
“This midfield is too direct”.
Many statements could be used to describe Luis Enrique’s midfield. Liking Lucho’s midfield or not is a matter of preference. But three things are for sure:
- Lucho’s midfield wasn’t the first midfield in Barcelona history to have a more direct approach nor will it be the last. It is very likely that the next coach will give our future midfield very similar instructions if he sees fit.
- The midfield does exist. By the historic definitions of what a midfield is and what it should do, Luis Enrique’s midfield does exist. A midfield that goes around defeating everyone and winning every possible trophy does in fact exist. It does not exist in Pep obsessed universe, maybe. But Luis Enrique’s midfield served to prove that the world of football did not discover the art of midfield play in 2009.
- People who claim to be supporters of the players but not the coach ignore a simple matter:
This line of thinking is pretty disrespectful to loved players like Iniesta, Rakitic, and Busquets. These players have perfected the roles given to them. But some fans decide to completely ignore their contribution by saying that “they don’t do anything except set up our forwards”.
The disrespect towards management decisions regarding youth player selection has hit an all time high. “No midfield” wasn’t the only made up concept which emerged in Luis Enrique’s era. The concepts regarding our young players have been just as unfair. Among the countless other things fans don’t seem to respect about Luis Enrique is his decisions regarding youth players. Fans are truly trying to suggest that the club has always depended on the countless ‘world class youth players’ who have emerged throughout the years. It’s not like Xavi and Iniesta have been the only significant midfield breakthroughs since the early 2000s or anything(with the exception of Thiago of course, but even Thiago couldn’t find his spot). It’s not like no youth defender has ever come close to matching what Puyol continued to offer since the early 2000s.
The management takes years to truly find a player from the youth system who has developed enough mentally and physically to play among the game’s greats. They will continue to test players and more often than not, the players will fail. But fans nowadays have you believing that youth players succeed(by Barcelona’s definition of what success is) more often than they fail. Such a statement is historically inaccurate.
This does not indicate that all of Luis Enrique’s (or any future coach) decisions are correct. One could state that a decision like the one involving Grimaldo is wrong. But people do pretend that it is his fault that no one is truly good enough to make it. Maybe it bothers them that their made up theories about how youth players develop and succeed keep being shattered in front of their eyes so they decide to blame Luis Enrique.
In general, there is major disrespect towards any decision Luis Enrique might take. Everyone is a youth expert. Everyone claims to know how an 18 or 19 year old player has developed physically and mentally. However the man who actually coached the youth team and has been part of the club since 1996 knows nothing.
The disrespect towards a manager’s decisions has hit an all time high. This goes beyond the sport. This can apply to any profession in the world. You do not just go to a professional in a certain field, claim that you know more and that he knows nothing especially when it comes to someone who has significant experience like Luis Enrique. Criticism and displeasure in certain events or plans are necessary, expected, and welcomed by any modest professional in the world because no one is perfect. However, this same professional did not spend the past 20 or 30 years of his or her life going to work every morning for someone to tell them: “Well look, I have been following up with your career field for a while now and I would like to inform you that you know absolutely nothing and all your decisions are terrible. Now, please sit down so that I can teach you how to do your job”.
Barcelona fans can’t accept change.
With the change from Pep to Luis Enrique to the change from Xavi to Rakitic, Barcelona fans don’t fancy change. Well, humans don’t fancy change by nature. But some people make the change seem more drastic than it actually is. These are the same people who continuously display stats, graphs, tactics, heat maps, passing sequences, and write articles about how Barcelona lost its identity. You know…the 2009 identity.
I find it very odd that no one bothers to collect such information from Rijkaard’s days where you will find many similarities with Lucho’s Barcelona(much like you can also find similarities between Lucho’s Barcelona and Pep’s Barcelona). This happens because of two reasons:
- Many people didn’t even watch that Rijkaard side and thus suggest that Edmilson, Deco and all the others who came to Barcelona’s midfield have dominated the way Busquets and Xavi did.
- There are people who did actually watch Rijkaard’s team and realize that it doesn’t fit the Xavi-Busquets perfect midfield example as much and thus chose to ignore that team. In general, that Rijkaard team is never ever used as an example for how Barcelona should play. It’s like Cruyff’s 90s team was Barcelona, Pep’s team was Barcelona and everything in between and after that is just an effort. Apparently, they’re just truly insignificant efforts that are not worthy of your time or your respect.
Barcelona fans are interested in a legacy, not just a great team.
As admirable as that may be and it truly is a characteristic of a great club, it is the most impractical thing you can suggest. It is like always wanting and expecting an exception. It will eventually lose its significance and no longer be an exception to begin with. It will become just like any other expectation. “We want to win the double” is an expectation(the biggest logical expectation you can possibly have).
“We want a team that can win the treble” is an exception.
“We want a team that will leave a legacy” is an exception.
To want such an exception is admirable and exciting but this shouldn’t change the fact that it’s an exception and not getting it has a much higher probability.
Pep offered this legacy but Frank Rijkaard relatively didn’t. It doesn’t change that Frank put together one of the most exciting teams of the 2004-2007 period. Maybe the team did not provide the euphoria nor the dominance of Pep’s team but it provided several great moments and memorable success. This should be considered acceptable and it should be greatly respected.
The same applies to everything Lucho’s team has done since 2014. If the coach who is going to follow Lucho leaves a legacy that would be remarkable. However, if he doesn’t, and he creates a powerful, entertaining, and successful Barcelona side then he should be respected and all his achievements should be recognized even if he wasn’t exceptional.
Lionel Messi is the worst and best thing a coach could ask for.
Possibly one of the clearest reasons why Luis Enrique has an odd reputation is because of details more or less related to Lionel Messi.
One of the more infamous incidents took place in the beginning of 2015 when Lionel Messi didn’t show up for training and from that point on Luis Enrique was considered the villain. He was a nobody coach who seemed to have failed to find a consistent starting eleven and is now clashing with the club’s favorite son, the greatest player of all time. Luis Enrique never truly recovered from that incident in many fans’ eyes. All the success that took place from January 2015 on was apparently because Lionel Messi woke up one day and led the team to victory for the next year and a half despite evil Luis Enrique’s plan to ‘get rid of Messi’. I wish I was joking. This series of events actually took place and people were discussing it in this exact form.
In reality, Luis Enrique’s relationship with Messi later developed into something great as they were fully aware that the fate of the team was at stake. Sadly, you can’t always fix your reputation.
The reason why having Lionel Messi is the best thing in the world is very clear on the field. However, having Messi can prove to be a hassle for a coach off the field.
With the rise of Messi fanboys and fanboys in general, no one is safe. There is a need from these people to disrespect and discredit everyone involved in Messi’s career. “You are lucky to have him! You deserve nothing! You are a failure without him! Barcelona would be destroyed without Messi! Messi gave everyone at Barcelona a career!”
I could go on all day because these statements are pretty common. These people are often the most affected by the January 2015 incident.
There is a need to bash everything that surrounds Messi just to prove that he is superior. It’s silly mostly because Leo was never that type of person. Leo disagrees with all of what his fanboys might suggest. Leo has too much respect for Barcelona as a club and just wants to see his team win. This is his home.
Sadly, no one is safe from this Messi fanboy tsunami and Luis Enrique is often the first to drown.
“This song is amazing because Rihanna is in it.”
“What are you saying? Drake absolutely killed it! Rihanna was lucky to have Drake in this song”.
Why can’t we just say that the song was great? Nah…
Rival fans have had enough.
Rivals became sick of Barcelona’s success over the years. Can you blame them? Anything they’ve won, we’ve won like 3 times more on average in the past decade. I did just make that up but you get the point.
Luis Enrique has become a victim of this jealousy. Rival fans are absolutely begging to see Barcelona fail because they have had enough. The tactic is simple: Disrespect and discredit Barcelona and Luis Enrique as much as you want as long as you conclude with the fact that Messi is the greatest.
So basically, rival fans do not truly believe that Luis Enrique is the worst coach ever. Their arguments like “he has amazing players” often easily backfire considering they support clubs which sign the best players in the world year in year out. So, such an argument, when applied to them, makes them look very bad because they haven’t achieved as much as Luis Enrique.
Fact is, these rivals fans are not willing to accept that Barcelona had risen again and actually won another treble. They are not willing to accept that Luis Enrique is not as bad as they’re trying to believe. Their minds are not entertaining the thought of the nightmare of Barcelona dominance not being over yet. So, again, the tactic is simple: discredit everyone in every possible way except Lionel Messi because if you include Messi in the slander people won’t take you seriously. Maybe it’s a desperate act but when it comes to slander it’s pretty efficient.
Was it ever about Luis Enrique himself? Absolutely not.
It was about the timing of Luis Enrique’s era. It is about the evolution of Barcelona after Pep Guardiola and how everything was decided based on the definitions which Pep apparently set. It is about the people who are trying to deny the facts that are related to youth player growth and how decisions were taken regarding such youth players throughout Barcelona’s recent history. It is about the disrespect of people’s professions. It is about the eternal fear of change and the need for an exception rather than the usual high expectation. It is about how a person’s image can be destroyed in a matter of seconds and how Lionel Messi’s fanboys have created a pretty uncomfortable atmosphere for the club and how they are continuously trying to disrespect the coach and the players. It is about rivals’ hunger for success, jealousy and frustration when they realize that the greatest team in the world can become the best again in a matter of months and there is not a thing they could do about it. It is about a forgotten Frank Rijkaard whose era tells a very significant story. This is about exaggerating the bad so that it can outweigh the good while in reality the good is far ahead.
This is possibly Luis Enrique’s last season at the club and a new coach is on his way.
To Luis Enrique, I’d like to say this:
Your era might be twisted, ignored, or manipulated but I have complete faith that throughout the past 3 years you have served the club with all the possible knowledge you have and the effort you put. I apologize that during your era you had to witness people calling winning a domestic double(with some great performances) a disappointment. I apologize that at the final whistle in Berlin people wanted you out because our midfield apparently did not dominate Juve’s. You are the right man at the wrong time. You are a champion who helped champions remember their status. You represent one of the most important stages of this great club’s history and you shall forever be remembered as a club legend.