Born in the Gijon region of Spain, Luis Enrique Martinez Garcia started his professional soccer playing career by wearing the shirt of the local club, Sporting Club Gijon. The local boy however was destined for bigger things as he is remembered for his stints with the both the Spanish top flights biggest clubs.
Luis Enrique played for Real Madrid for a total of 5 seasons before moving on to the arch–rivals Barcelona as a free transfer. At the Catalan club, Enrique spent 8 successful seasons which saw him winning the domestic titles on a back to back basis and also scoring 46 goals in the league.
For his country, he featured for Spain in three World cups and one European Championship and was a Gold winner in the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona.
Luis Enrique hung up his boots at the age of 34 in the year 2004 and brought to end an illustrious career consisting of a total of 102 goals.
MANAGER LUIS ENRIQUE PROFILE:
It was the year 2008, and Barcelona B’s coach Guardiola was entrusted the job of managing the Barcelona first team. Guardiola departed with Tito Villanova to begin a stint that would be one of the greatest ones in the history of the game as well as the club.
It was then that Luis Enrique began his career as a coach by filling in the position of coach which Guardiola left in the Barcelona B team.
A highly elated Luis Enrique was very joyous on return to the club with which he had the most success in his playing career. The Gijon man considered Barcelona as his second home and was ambitiously giving a start to his coaching career.
On the 18th of June, 2008 Luis Enrique took charge of the B side and within two seasons he led the team to the second division. However, his first coaching spell was short lived as he decided to depart from the Barcelona B side in 2011 despite the fact that he had two left in his contract.
This was probably because Luis Enrique wanted to try out his coaching traits at a bigger level and he got a chance to become a gaffer for the Italian giants Roma. However, Luis Enrique’s Roma stint was a fairly disastrous one as a series of his bad decisions cost Roma severely in several competitions.
He was criticized for his decision to substitute the Roma talisman Francesco Totti for Stefano Chuka which according to the critics was the reason of Roma’s elimination from the Europa League that season. To add to this, Roma also lost the very first match of the Italian league against Cagliari, which was a huge upset for the fans and the board given the fact that a reputed giant Roma had lost the opener very rarely in the league history.
Luis Enrique failed to qualify Roma for any European competition and hence he decided to part ways with the Italian club and return to Spain.
Back in Spain, Luis Enrique took over the managerial role at Celta De Vigo in 2013. Luis Enrique restored his pride and ambition by successfully managing the Galician club to a ninth position in its very first season under him. One of the most remarkable victories that season was the 2-0 win over giants Real Madrid.
His only season at Celta was a memorable one and probably his best season as a manager so far.
At the same time, Barcelona were facing a managerial crisis as after the departure of a highly successful Guardiola and the sad demise of Tito Vilanova was coupled with the losing faith in Tata Martino’s methods.
The club which was a few years back being considered probably the greatest teams in the history of the game, was slowly degrading in its standards and philosophies and the Barcelona board felt a strong need to restore the clubs ambition along with simultaneously adhering to the clubs inherent principles and philosophies. This required Barcelona to appoint a coach which had achieved success by being a player for the Catalan club and who was very well aware of the principles and morals that made up Barcelona’s play.
The only such candidate was Luis Enrique and his impressive stint with Celta had very deservedly brought the Gijon man into the limelight of Spanish soccer.
Luis Enrique succeeded Gerardo Martino as the new Barcelona head coach on the 19th of May, 2014. The deal signed was of two years.
Luis Enrique proved himself as a considerate and an unbiased manager as he handed several young players their first team debut. Also the summer signings of Barcelona Rakitic, Bravo and Mathieu were given their debuts in a Barca shirt against Elche in the first league game of the season which Barca comfortably won 3-0. The start which Luis Enrique gave to the season was an unparalleled one as Barca went on for two months without conceding even a single goal in any competition. The first goal conceded by Barcelona came in the very first Champion’s League group game against PSG at the Parc Des Princes.
The very first league goal conceded by Barcelona the same season was against rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu and it was also their first league defeat that season. This finished up a remarkable run of clean sheets for the Barcelona side under Enrique.
However, by the end of the year 2014, Luis Enrique found the supporters losing faith in him due to his surprisingly disappointing decisions and an infamous tiff with the Barcelona Golden boy Lionel Messi.
The start to 2015 was an even disastrous one as Barcelona lost an away league game to Real Sociedad by a 1-0 score line that too which came off because of a Jordi Alba own goal. Luis Enrique was highly criticized for benching Lionel Messi whose absence from the start of the game proved vital for the Real Sociedad side to edge a close victory.
However, the Barcelona side coped up with the negativities and the poor results and till the date of writing is on a winning streak of 11 games in all competitions which has seen them reach the semi-finals of the Copa Del Rey and come to close down the gap on the League leaders Madrid to just one point.
Under Enrique’s management Barcelona this season is the only Spanish club to be alive and in contention for all the Major competitions.
Enrique as a manager has been highly human, often being at the end of disastrous decisions along with achieving some memorable feats in contrast. He is a manager who very remarkably works on the fitness of the players under his management. He is a coach who can achieve a perfect balance between the physical and the mental sides of the game in order to achieve success. His stints at Celta and Roma clearly suggest that he prefers direct style of soccer that is highly pleasing to the eye which can slightly be in contrast to the traditional Barcelona game play. However, this doesn’t over shadow the fact that he sometimes prefers his team to play possession based soccer as he did during his time with Barcelona B side.
The stage has been set for Enrique to shine. He never got a side as good as the current Barca side to manage across his six seasons into soccer management. He has the skills necessary but until now he lacked the players. Only time will tell whether Enrique is the ideal replacement for Guardiola at the Catalan club or not.