Barça win, but that ain’t the news

Lucho Out. It’s official.

Luis Enrique announced that he will not continue as coach of FC Barcelona, ending speculation about something that everyone has pretty much presumed was going to happen at any rate. Dependent upon what happens, he could end his season in the same way that the last coach who won a treble at Barça ended his tenure: with a Copa to show for it.

Yet, the two tenures couldn’t be more different even as one defined the other. Pep Guardiola got a once-in-a-lifetime group of players at their physical and mental peaks and made magic with them. Luis Enrique got a very talented group, with some of those once-in-a-lifetimers past their prime and still, he made magic.

History will be kinder to his coaching tenure than many of the club’s supporters will be and have been. He will leave Barça with at least five titiles in three seasons, a record of having improved almost every player under his tutelage and some smart transfer calls that have set the club up for the future. And to be absolutely clear about this, Luis Enrique got a shitty deal from people who stopped watching football because they were too busy looking backward.

It’s tough to follow a legend, and the reality is that every Barça coach will be following in, and measured by, the footsteps of Pep Guardiola even as there will have been many coaches between them. And those coaches will all be found wanting, because the Guardiola era was magic and unrepeatable, even as Luis Enrique was, like his successor will be, damned for not being able to recreate magic.

Luis Enrique has Rafinha thriving, turned Sergi Roberto from transfer package makeweight into a quality starter for Barça. He’s won a treble and a double in consecutive seasons and his team is still alive in three competitions, even if the Champions League bid has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. His team has played lustrous football, his team has also played crap football and all points in between. It’s also important to note that it is time for him to leave, even as his treatment has been appalling and mostly unfair.

His swashbuckling charges stood football on its ear as clearly and cleanly by combining Messi, Neymar and Suarez as Guardiola did with the triumvirate of Messi, Eto’o and Henry. Both men won trebles their first season at the helm, as well. What’s different about the Luis Enrique tenure, then? So many things, some good, some bad, some interpreted as one way even if they are the other.

He announced his departure on the day that his team rolled out a 3-4-3 diamond to eviscerate Sporting Gijon. Some will say that they would have beaten Sporting no matter how they rolled out, which is probably true. But he also rolled out the 3-4-3 in a potentially season-defining match against Atleti, and won with formation, tactics and his subs. But no matter what he did, the “Lucho Out!” brigade was long and loud, silent when he was celebrating a treble with his players, waiting for the opportunity to kick at the first opening.

This season has been a complex one for Barça, with many errors on and off the pitch. Luis Enrique’s errors have been documented with more and greater clarity than his successes, because that’s how it is when you’re unfavored. As with Guardiola, Luis Enrique leaves Barça needing a rest. The club is a pressure cooker, dealing with the entorno is like standing at the bottom of a valley as people shovel shit into the hole. All you have is a baseball cap and a broken umbrella.

The speculation is already building about who will be next. I can’t say that I care right now, because there is still a season to be contested. He told the players first, because that is as it should be. Then the rest of the world found out. There will be no weepy pressers, no culers sobbing as that presser is televised. Luis Enrique was a hard man as a player, and a hard man as a coach. He will be a hard man whereever he goes, even if that his home with his millions, to ride bikes and be with his family.

From this chair, there is nothing but respect for what Luis Enrique has done as FC Barcelona coach. For others, the quality of his work will only become apparent in his absence. For others, it will never become clear. What is also clear is, just as when he was a player and as he is as a coach, he won’t care.

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

13 Comments

  1. Rami
    March 1, 2017

    This news caught me off guard, Maybe i was silly, But i had a positive vibe this week that he might renew, I don’t know what to feel.
    In one end i’m glad that he’ll leave with his head held high as guardiola did, On the other end i’m sad that such a successful coach could only last 3 years in FCB, It’s both tragic and worrying, Replacing him will be a nightmare, The barca DNA he had is extremely rare to find.
    To be honest, The sad part of me is overwhelming now.

    An FCB legend both as a player and a coach, Gracias lucho, Gracias.

    • Messiah10
      March 1, 2017

      Gotta be Koeman for me. Barca player, hero, legend. No nonsense style. Just look at how he’s called out Barkley. I think he’d do well.

    • Rami
      March 2, 2017

      I can’t form an opinion about him because i have not followed, But we’ll see a lot of names being thrown around, Hopefully just smoke from the board, While they negotiate with their actual target.

  2. Dar_vincy
    March 1, 2017

    For certain, I wasn’t gobsmacked by the news. The PSG debacle was always going to psychological depressing for everyone involved. It was a case of when rather than if. Wish him the very best in his managerial adventure. And, gratitude for the treble and the double… and whatever comes after that.

  3. georgjorge
    March 1, 2017

    Sad to see him go. His way of constructing the midfield left me very nervous at times, and his personnel decisions sometimes seemed strange.

    But: A treble in his first season, and one with such a huge and joyful game like the first leg against Bayern in it? A 4-0 at the Bernabeu? Unleashing Neymar, and making good use of Sergi Roberto? I really would have wished for another season with all the new midfielders having gotten past their training season. Thanks for all the joy, Lucho.

    No idea at all who might follow him. A big name? Someone having coached the B team? Sampaoli? It’s not always the brightest names that have the biggest success at Barca. Who really would have put Guardiola or Enrique down as great coaches before they managed the Barcelona first team?

    At least some other small good news – Barca top of the table again (with one more game played) as RM just about manage to come back for the 3-3 draw against Las Palmas.

  4. luisthebeast
    March 1, 2017

    Yeaaah now Liga is in our hands!!
    The 25 Championship will be so sweet!!

  5. Víctor
    March 1, 2017

    And he decided that he needs to rest from the job and… you know what? You cant blame him… he did a great job… the silverware he got is a proof of that… sadly the environment is too heavy and too demanding… and it will be for any coach whatsoever…

    Say what you want… but this man deserves all barcelona fans’ respect…

    And now there liga…

  6. lala10
    March 1, 2017

    It was inevitable. A bit sad.

    For me there should only be one name. Setien

  7. PPos
    March 1, 2017

    I used to be one of the first to be in the Lucho Out camp, but once he won the treble and righteously shut me up. I’ve been more patient and understanding of him and the position that he holds. Being coach of FC Barcelona is an extremely difficult job. Cules are fierce supporters and the recent history we have endured has spoiled us and made us addicted to success. Lucho can be a blockhead sometimes with his tactics, but lately he has shown the right tactical flexibility. I know he’s going to use the 3-4-3 against PSG and I hope it does the trick, because we are going to need it. I bid the man a good farewell. He brought us a Champions League trophy and we all know how scant and difficult those are to get. It is with a tinge of sadness that we see the man go, but he’s tired. The job burns people out. This is not Arsenal FC where we allow mediocrity and under-achieving to thrive and be accepted. We are FC Barcelona. I’m excited to see how this new project will come along, and if MSN has to go, I don’t care. The club is always more important than any player or coach. Looking at you Wenger.

  8. TITO
    March 2, 2017

    I can understand his decision to quit, it’s a stressful job, maybe one of the toughest in the world of sports, but,
    i don’t get the point of these announcements in the middle of the season. Why can’t they wait until the end of the season? To give the board time to find a replacement?
    Now it’s the time when the team needs to be focused, and they don’t need this sort of distraction. Of course, it was inevitable, but still, should have been prolonged.
    I just hope it doesn’t have a negative impact on our players for the moment. Especially now when RM are in “crisis”. We can manage to win La Liga.
    The CL is gone for me.

    • Davour
      March 2, 2017

      Perhaps. But this also serves to end speculation, and could possibly give him some slack in doing his job. The team might feel the urge to end on a positive note, which might cause a boost in morale. Nothing lasts…

    • Rami
      March 2, 2017

      There is nothing distracting about the announcement, Setting aside that these are professional football players we’re talking about, There is nothing to be even distracted about, The future of the coach has no bearing on the players and their future, Their contracts are the same, Their salaries are the same.

    • TITO
      March 2, 2017

      They are humans, not machines. So of course it will matter to them who or how is leading them, regardless how professional they are.
      I know i would care.

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