Saturday 21 October 2017

Barca turn to Luis Enrique in bid to restore old order

New Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. Photo credit MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images
New Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. Photo credit MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images

Jamie Holland

BARCELONA have appointed former midfielder Luis Enrique as their new head coach.

The 44-year-old, who was in charge of Celta Vigo this season, has agreed a two-year deal to take over from Gerardo Martino, who has left the Nou Camp after just one campaign in charge.

The appointment of the former Spain international, who played for Barca from 1996 to 2004 after joining them from bitter rivals Real Madrid, came on a busy day for the Catalan giants.

Lionel Messi put pen to paper on his new deal, while the club also completed the signing of highly-rated German goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Enrique has been tasked with bringing the big silverware back to the Nou Camp.

The club missed out in the league, cup and Champions League under Martino, finishing second to Atletico Madrid on the final day of the Primera Division.

Atletico also knocked Barca out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals, while Real beat them in the Copa del Rey final.

Enrique helped Barca win both La Liga and the Copa del Rey twice, as well as the old European Cup Winners Cup, during his eight years at the club, where he also had a spell as captain.

He started his coaching career with the 'B' team before moving on to Roma, spending just a single season in the Italian capital.

His return to Barca as first-team boss sees him follow in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola as the only man to be the club's captain, 'B' team coach and first-team coach.

Enrique, who started his playing career at Sporting Gijon before moving to Real Madrid for five years and then on to Barca, had limited success at Roma, who finished seventh in Serie A under him.

His work at Celta, following a year out, is what has caught the eye of Andoni Zubizarreta and the Barca board. He guided them to a ninth-placed finish this term, playing some of the most attractive football in Spain in the process.

STYLE

Enrique is seen as a Barca insider who will remain true to the club's possession-based style with its focus on relentless attack.

One of the new coach's main tasks will be to find a way to gel the talents Naimar with those of Messi, whose new contract is reportedly worth a record €20m per season and ties the 26-year-old to the club until 2018.

His other main focus will be to ensure that the Barca defence stop leaking soft goals – especially from set-pieces.

Barcelona were hit with a one-year transfer embargo for violations of the rules on signing minors earlier this year.

That ban has been suspended on appeal, so Barca need to make a series of moves this summer in order to guard against the possibility that it is reinstated in full for both the winter transfer window and next summer.

The first arrival was Ter Stegen, who is only 22 but has played more than 100 Bundesliga games for Gladbach and won four caps for Germany.

With Victor Valdes and Jose Pinto departing this summer, he is set to be the new No 1 at the Nou Camp.

Barca also announced that Gerard Deulofeu would return to the club from his loan spell at Everton.

Meanwhile, Diego Costa has little or no chance of being fit to play for Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday after news emerged that his hamstring injury was a grade one tear.

It is the third time in recent months that the 36-goal hitman has had problems with his thigh but this is the first occasion where it is a tear rather than a strain. Arda Turan is also a doubt for the final with a pelvic injury, but coach Diego Simeone will give both players as much time as possible to prove their fitness.

"We will wait to see how Arda and Costa are by the end of the week. Given the situation that they are not ready then we will look for alternatives," he said.

"I would say that we have a 50pc chance in the game. They have better individual players but we are a team. It will be an equal match with the key in the middle of the pitch."

Atletico have met Real on four occasions this season with mixed results, securing a win and a draw in the league but losing both legs of their Copa del Rey semi-final.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport