What next for Luis Enrique?
Luis Enrique bowed out of Barcelona in very much the same style his reign at the club has been known for - winning. Forget for a moment the stand-offs with the media, the stubbornness with his playing staff and frosty relationship with the fans. Enrique has been an undoubted success and a winner.
A haul of nine trophies in his three years with the club is a record that can’t be baulked at, no matter your views on the decisive coach. Barca fans towards the end realised it too, evidence as such as his name began to be sung around Camp Nou more frequently in his final weeks. The same song was there again on Saturday as he captured that final trophy, and indeed he even took it upon himself to soak it up. Praise and adulation are not things that sit well with the gruff Asturian.
Barca wore him down, and that is why rather than doing what most do – move right into another job, Luis Enrique will take time out with friends, family…and the beach.
“I'm the one who decided that it's best to stop now. It's the right time for me and for the players.
"Due to the intensity with which you have to live this profession, there's a lot of wear and tear, so it's not a shame [I'm leaving], the opposite”.
Expect his beloved cycling to be a prominent source of enjoyment too, rather than a hobby it’s a great love in his life. As the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are stressing it out on a dugout next year, it’s likely that Lucho will be in the mountains somewhere on his bike, well and truly off the grid.
Internal politics that plagues every Barca reign eventually got to Luis Enrique and his relationship with the media and fans was anything but comfortable.
When the mild-mannered, friend of everyone Ernesto Valverde eventually walks into the club many will breathe a sigh of relief. But whatever your view, the 47-year-old brought about a change at the club that was required and few maybe had the mentality to do so.
He made Barca a tougher beast when they had become soft, and he also cultivated the greatest attacking trio in the history of the game. While the football was different to the ball juggling, hypnotic feel of Pep Guardiola’s great era - of which every Barça modern team will be compared to - there was by no means a grim feel to Luis Enrique’s own group.
There were more organised, solid and even pragmatic at times but that by no means diminished their attacking edge. There they remained a force of nature that we will seldom see again.
And of course, the trophies. Nine in three years, and a coach that won all five of the single game finals he featured in. Luis Enrique bowed out making history too, becoming the first manager to win three consecutive Copa del Rey’s in 64 years.
Surely then, when he does return, will his stock remain high?
You’d think so, but then doubts do still remain. The blessing of MSN’s emergence during his reign is often used as a stick to beat him with, with the accusation of anyone could win with those riches bestowed upon you. The reality is different however and a system did need to be created, and man-management of these stars was required. You won’t catch many players coming out to criticise Luis Enrique too.
When he does return, he should have the pick of the top jobs that are available. A return to Spain seems unlikely given he’s been to the top and a step down might be hard to envision. England is where coaches seem to enjoy the most, however, and that perhaps remains the most intriguing option. Italy has already been done, and there too he found himself at odds with the media and fans alike. Pitching up on the International stage is an option too, and maybe less intense. By the time his sabbatical is over, Chinese football might’ve also made significant gains.
Lucho himself, is, of course, open to his next role, declaring himself "open to any possibility, even coaching in another sport.”
First, however, it’s the beach and a lot of cycling. After a year of that, Lucho will be ready to return.