The Barcelona manager leaves the Camp Nou this summer
As Ivan Rakitic drove Barcelona's sixth against Sporting Gijón to the roof of the net, the camera panned to Luis Enrique. He sat, slumped in the dugout, staring off into the distance. He was deep in thought. About what? We were about find out.
The divisive Barcelona manager would tell his players in the dressing room after the game of his intention to leave at the end of the season, citing the need for rest as the reason for not renewing with the club. He had presumably decided he would not continue as their manager weeks ago but needed a good moment to break the news. A 6-1 win at the Camp Nou to put his side top of the league is as good a time as any.
Many believed Enrique would leave at the end of the season in any case but few thought he would go out like this, shrouded in an unspoken acrimony. It should not come as a surprise though.
He can, dare we say, enjoy his last couple of months at the club that has given him so much but demanded even more in return. Luis Enrique is untouchable now. The 46-year-old is leaving soon and with that news comes a certain fecklessness - what can you say to hurt a man who has already decided his fate. It’s not the outcome of the Champions League tie with Paris Saint Germain. And it’s not whether he wins the Copa del Rey or La Liga. He is leaving on his terms and he will never have anyone say any different, just as it always was.
There takes a certain person to move from Real Madrid to Barcelona. For some players, it can be explained away by money. For others though, it involves a certain level of curmudgeonry. It takes someone who does things on their own terms and who has no problem with being the antagonist. When Luis Enrique felt he was not being appreciated adequately in Madrid, he decided it was time to leave. The “accusing fingers” would have to find another target.
Enrique (left) played for Real Madrid, before joining Barcelona in 1996. Picture by: Matthew Ashton/EMPICS Sport
With the limited number of opportunities and “feeling alone” at the Santiago Bernabeu, the now-Barcelona manager knew his future lay elsewhere. There is a sense that not playing might have been a hurdle that could be overcome but the lack of respect for what he could do was unacceptable. It would drive him out of Madrid and into the waiting arms of Barcelona. It is also what would drive him to succeed at his new club.
Enrique left Real Madrid as flippantly as he has dealt with the media during his time with Barcelona, but inside him a fierce desire to prove those who whistled him wrong. Within his second year of his time in Barcelona, he had his chance to get revenge and he did just that when he scored against his former side at the Santiago Bernabeu. He raced to the area where Real Madrid’s most fervent supporters stood, and soaked it in. ”My celebration shows clearly how much I wanted to score here. It was not just that we had taken the lead; it was that I had scored here, at the Bernabeu,” he told Sid Lowe in 2014.
For all of the trophies Enrique has won with Barcelona - eight in ten as it stands - there seems to be the same lack of respect for the asturiano in the Camp Nou. The whistling of him and some players during a recent win over Leganés the last straw, Luis Enrique has decided to get out just like he did at Real Madrid, when respect has reached a low point.
The man they call Lucho won’t be able to score against Barcelona, but he will get his revenge. His revenge will consist of every loss that Barcelona suffer as they try to find a manager who can replicate his trophy haul during his three years at the club. When fans think back fondly to the times when he sat pouting on the sideline as Barcelona fumble through coaches in search of the new Pep Guardiola, the new Luis Enrique. That feeling that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Luis Enrique Martinez Garcia’s revenge on Real Madrid was to stand in front of the Ultras and gloat. His next act of revenge will be disappearing from the Barcelona dugout.