Luis Enrique- The challenges he faces as Barcelona manager
The appointment of Luis Enrique as the new Barcelona coach was met with excitement by all culés. The return of a club legend have made many fans believe that the dominating years under Pep Guardiola are about to return. Nonetheless, Lucho has an extremely difficult task ahead of him. The expectation levels of the fans have reached the heights of the Guardiola era, so Luis Enrique will have to hit the ground running.
His first and most difficult task is trying to build a new core for the Barcelona team. With Puyol announcing his retirement, Victor Valdes leaving the club and the uncertainty over Xavi’s future, Lucho has the strenuous task of replacing these club legends. The influence these three men have had in the success during the Guardiola years can’t be overestimated. To lose two and possibly three of the club captains in one summer will put a strain on Luis Enrique’s plans for Barcelona.
His focus would be to replace these players with the same quality and it is nearly impossible to find these types of players in world football today. These players had a great understanding of the structure and culture of the club, and more importantly were world class players who brought unprecedented success to the club. With Marc-Andre Ter Stegen already announced as the replacement for Valdes; it is welcome news for the Blaugrana. Ter Stegen has buckets of talent and potential and could fill Valdes’s position with relative ease.
As regards replacing Puyol, the problem facing Enrique is massive. Not only does he have to replace a world class defender, he is also losing a player whose leadership is unquestionable. Many times over the years in Puyol’s absence, Barcelona lose motivation in times of adversity and slip up in games they should have won. His will to win every game was so high, that Gerard Pique once said in an interview, “He's someone who, even if you're winning 3–0 and there's a few seconds left in the game will shout at the top of his voice at you if he thinks your concentration is going.”
Of the six games that Barcelona lost in the 2010-2011 season, Puyol wasn’t involved in any on them. This confirms his huge importance to the team and signifies a massive loss to the team. Some of the names currently been linked to replace Puyol are Marquinhos, Mehdi Benatia and Mats Hummels. With Marquinhos being too inexperienced and Hummels being too similar to Pique, the best choice would be Benatia, who at 27 years will now be entering into his prime as a defender. With many regarding Benatia as the best defender in Italy he seems to be the logical replacement for Puyol. If Benatia does sign, Luis Enrique will hope that he is able to restore defensive stability in Puyol’s absence.
With Xavi’s future up in the air, who knows whether he will be a Barcelona player next season. It would be great to see Xavi play for Barcelona for one more season. He has had a stellar career in which he redefined the role of the central midfielder. To replace one of the best ever Spanish players will be an extraordinary test of Luis Enrique’s managerial pedigree. With no one in world football really coming close to replacing Xavi, it might lead to a more direct style being implemented by Barcelona.