Luis Enrique promised “attractive and effective football” as he took the reins at Barcelona yesterday and set about putting the Catalan giants back at the summit of the European game.
“This is a very special day,” said the former player, who has signed a two-year contract. “We are beginning the building of a new, exciting Barca.
“My team will attack, we’ll play attractive and effective football, the kind of football that millions across the world have come to love, which means we need to defend well too,” said the former Barca B coach, who had an impressive season in charge of Celta Vigo last season.
The former Barca and Spain midfielder, a fans’ favourite during his playing days, has replaced Gerardo Martino. The Argentine had a disappointing debut season without major silverware and stepped down on Saturday.
Barcelona lost out to Atletico Madrid in the La Liga title race and were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Champions League by Atletico. They also lost to Real Madrid in the final of the King’s Cup.
“I’ll be laying out my plans to the players and talking to them so that they take them on board as their own,” the 44-year-old Luis Enrique said.
“I don’t think I’ll need to impose myself very much and bark out orders – we’re in this together, though I’ll be demanding hard work. I’ll be looking for plenty of hunger from the players and they’ll have to show me that every day.”
Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu and his board are hoping Luis Enrique will be able to recreate the success that the club enjoyed under another former midfielder, Pep Guardiola, who had a spectacular run in charge between 2008 and 2012.
Barca have already moved to replace departing goalkeeper Victor Valdes by luring Marc-Andre Ter Stegen from Borussia Moenchengladbach, while midfielder Rafinha and forward Gerard Deulofeu return from loan at Celta and Everton respectively.
Other reinforcements needed include at least one centre-back and possibly a centre-forward who is strong in the air and can give Barca an extra option in attack. Another important task for the new coach will be to help four-times World Player of the Year Lionel Messi rediscover his best form. Luis Enrique said he was looking forward to working with the Argentine.
Messi, who has been out of sorts in an injury-disrupted season, agreed a new deal with Barca last week that reportedly makes him the game’s best-paid player.
“I am delighted and overjoyed to have the best player on the planet in the squad,” Luis Enrique said. “It’s something that motivates me a great deal and I can see the club thinks the same and Messi is delighted to continue here.
“Messi’s performances have not been as incredible as in previous seasons but he still has the level of a number one.
“He brings a lot more than merely goals and he is necessary and indispensable for the group. I hope he can find his best version with me.”