Luis Enrique has announced that will be parting ways with reigning La Liga champions Barcelona when his contract expires at the end of the season. He cited the pressure of his job as the reason to not look for an extension, ending speculation about his future at camp Nou.
Enrique, a former player, has enjoyed three highly successful seasons in Barcelona, including a treble in his first year. However, Barcelona’s struggles this season, especially in the Champions League, had prompted questions about him.
Enrique dropped the news in the press conference after his team’s 6-1 routing of Sporting Gijon which gave them a slender lead at the top of the La Liga table. “I will not be the coach of Barcelona next season,” Enrique said, “It is a difficult, measured and well thought out decision and I think I have to be loyal to what I think.”
“I would like to thank the club for the confidence they have shown in me, it’s been three unforgettable years,” added Enrique, who has won a total of eight titles with the Catalan coach including two Liga titles, two King’s Cups and the 2015 Champions League since succeeding Gerardo Martino in 2014.
However, he came under a lot of criticism after the 4-0 thrashing by Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 match two weeks ago, a result that put Barca on course for a rare, early elimination from the European competition. This could have been the trigger for Enrique who was previously on the verge of leaving back in January 2015, reportedly because of his strained relationship with Lionel Messi after leaving the striker out of the starting line-up.
Although, Enrique has blamed the intense pressure of the job as his reason for leaving, much like his former teammate and Barca manager Pep Guardiola. “In my work I am constantly looking for solutions and that means I get no time to rest, I need to rest and that’s my main motive for leaving,” he said.
Guardiola himself paid rich tribute to Enrique saying he was the ‘perfect’ for the club. “With Luis Enrique’s farewell, fans lose someone who was the perfect coach for Barcelona. The football in the last three years has been incredible,” the Manchester City manager said.
Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu was also all praised the departing coach. “We’re very happy with the work he has done up to now and we have to accept his decision and support him. Luis Enrique will leave in the summer and we’ve had a super coach for the last three years,” he said.
However, the players seemed to very surprised by the supposedly sudden announcement. “We knew nothing about it,” midfielder Ivan Rakitic told Croatian media. “First he told the team about his decision. We were left stunned and at a loss for words. We want to end the season successfully and enjoy what is left.”
Enrique is also looking forward to his last few months at the club, and to overturn the deficit to continue in the Champions League. “There are three exciting months ahead. We are in a difficult situation, especially in one competition, but with the help of everyone and if the stars align we can turn that game around. I will give my full dedication in these three months,” Enrique said.