Barcelona Reports: Unzue emerges as surprise favourite for Luis Enrique's job
Could Luis Enrique's right hand man be the right person for the tasking job?
What’s the story?
After Luis Enrique shockingly announced his resignation from the post of head coach of Barcelona FC after his team thrashed Sporting Gijon 6-1 about ten days ago, his job has become the most wanted in the footballing world. Despite coaches of the calibre of Sevilla’s Jorge Sampaoli and Athletic Bilbao’s Ernesto Valverde being linked to the clubs, latest reports from Catalonia indicate that Juan Carlos Unzue, Luis Enrique’s current assistant manager has emerged as favourite for the job.
In case you didn’t know
Unzue had a fruitful playing career in La Liga, keeping goal for a variety of clubs across Spain including Osasuna, Barcelona, Sevilla, Tenerife and Oviedo. The majority of his career was spent at Sevilla, where he guarded the net 222 times. Rather interestingly, Seville’s in-demand Sporting Director Monchi was the second choice goalie at the same time. After retiring, he immediately returned to the game and took up the goalkeeping coach role at FC Barcelona under Frank Rijkaard, and later under Pep Guardiola. After travelling around a bit, he became Luis Enrique’s assistant manager at Celta Vigo, and accompanied him to Barcelona, where he retained his position as assistant.
The heart of the matter
Multiple times, the Barcelona hierarchy have reiterated that they are after a person who understands the club, it’s style and it’s roots. And this where Unzue has a clear edge over the more experienced candidates. Choosing him would send out a signal that Barcelona are staying true to their philosophy of continuation – whereas Valverde or Sampaoli would be seen as disrupting influences.
Unzue is known for his set-piece expertise, and already tasked with the duty of communicating Luis Enrique’s instructions to the players during matches, he has developed a warm rapport with the players
With Enrique and Unzue having masterminded Barcelona’s epic comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League this mid-week, his case has been strenghtened. There is, of course, precedent for this – Pep Guardiola’s successor, Tito Vilanova, was promoted to the managerial post after his boss decided to take a sabbatical. Hence, this has now emerged as a strong possibility
Luis Enrique’s position will be one that many managers will view as a poisoned chalice – while being able to work with the world’s best players is always a draw, the egoes and the intricate internal politics that are spread across the fans, the dressing room and the boardroom will be something that can catch people unawares. Unzue is well aware of all these dynamics and will provide the smoothest transition possible. Even if only for a year, this could be a safe choice for the Barca hierarchy