Thursday 22 February 2018

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique signs off with ninth trophy of three-year reign

Barcelona's head coach Luis Enrique holds up the cup after winning the Copa del Rey final
Barcelona's head coach Luis Enrique holds up the cup after winning the Copa del Rey final Newsdesk Newsdesk

Luis Enrique feels he is leaving Barcelona with his head held high after leading the club to another trophy.

Barcelona won the Copa del Rey with a 3-1 win against Alaves in Enrique's final game in charge.

It is the ninth trophy of Enrique's three-year reign, which has included Copa del Rey triumphs in each season.

Their latest victory was earned with first-half goals from Lionel Messi, Neymar and Paco Alcacer and came at the end of a campaign which included disappointment in both LaLiga and Europe.

Enrique, who announced in March he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, was thrilled to end his reign by winning the final at the Vicente Calderon.

"I feel happy because I have enjoyed a lot making Barca fans happy by winning trophies and that makes me proud," Enrique told Barcelona's website.

"The trophy is for everyone. We are a big family. There are lots of people involved in helping the players perform and this shows that things have been done well.

"Nine trophies out of 13 is a pretty good record."

Enrique was adamant his decision to leave remains a correct one.

"I am the one who has decided to stop because it will be the best for me and the best for the players," he said.

Enrique, who told Marca he did not know what the future held for him and was "open to any possibility", leaves the club on good terms and with an invitation to return to the Nou Camp.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: "Luis Enrique has done a very good job and we are very grateful.

"The door is always open for him to return when he wants. He has been a successful manager".

As has happened often throughout Enrique's reign, Barcelona were boosted by a brilliant display from Messi.

Enrique felt Messi was "from another planet" after the Argentina forward set Barcelona on their way with his 54th goal of the season, before superbly setting up Alcacer for the third.

Alcacer, who scored his eighth goal of his debut season with the club, said: "There is no better player than Leo Messi. I am very proud to be able to play beside him. He makes football so easy."

Neymar had a hand in Messi's opener before scoring for the third successive Copa del Rey final.

His goal put Barca back in the lead after Theo Hernandez had equalised with a sensational free-kick.

Alaves manager Mauricio Pellegrino felt Messi's influence decided the game.

"Messi is a player who makes a difference in those spaces," Pellegrino told Marca. "He is an out of the ordinary player who has the ability to finish a game with a precise pass."

Pellegrino has been linked with a move away from Alaves this summer and the former Liverpool coach said all would be revealed shortly.

He said: "I'll talk about my future next week, if possible on Monday. But the decision on my future has already been taken."

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