Sport Soccer

Saturday 21 April 2018

Luis Enrique ducks questions on future as Barcelona exit speculation grows

Head coach Luis Enrique of FC Barcelona. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Head coach Luis Enrique of FC Barcelona. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Richard Martin

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique avoided questions about his future on Wednesday as speculation grows that he will leave the club at the end of the season when his contract with the Spanish champions expires.

The 46-year-old coach refused to comment on whether he felt his players wanted him to remain in charge while speaking at a news conference ahead of Barcelona's Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg with Real Sociedad.

He also ducked a question asking if his assistant Juan Carlos Unzue, reported by the media to be Luis Enrique's first choice to succeed him, was ready to take the reins at the club, saying: “This question has nothing to do with tomorrow's game.”

The former Barcelona and Spain midfielder has won every trophy possible in the two-and-a-half years since succeeding Gerardo Martino in 2014, including successive league and Copa del Rey titles as well as the 2015 Champions League.

Despite overseeing enormous success on the pitch, the coach has long had a spiky relationship with the Barcelona media and has declared in the past he does not envisage having a long career in the Nou Camp dugout.

In March 2016 he said: “I think in the modern era no one has been the Barcelona coach for 20 years, only the chosen few could handle such a long time at this club and I think it's impossible. If I could, I would only sign six-month contracts. If at some point I am not happy, why would I stay?”

Luis Enrique originally signed a two-year deal when he took over in 2014 which he extended by an extra year in 2015 after Barca beat Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final in Berlin.

Spanish media reports have long cited Unzue, a former Barcelona reserve goalkeeper, as Luis Enrique's favoured choice to take over from him. Unzue was Luis Enrique's assistant at Celta Vigo and is often seen giving instructions from the sidelines, particularly at set pieces.

Other candidates touted by the media as potential successors include Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde, who had a brief spell at Barcelona as forward, and Sevilla's Jorge Sampaoli, whose side are second in La Liga, one place above Barcelona, after taking a club record 42 points from their first 19 games.

Independent News Service

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