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Luis Enrique talks coaching career, Barcelona, philosophy, more

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Barcelona manager Luis Enrique, on the verge of coaching his first Champions League final, gave a lengthy and sensational interview to's Graham Hunter about his career, his philosophy as a coach, and the chances of the Blaugrana winning the trophy on Saturday. Enjoy:

"I started my career as a coach in the youth team. It wasn't the first team, but I already had people at my disposal. Of course, as you become more senior at a club, you have to manage a greater number of people, and higher-level players which always makes the situation different. That's part of the coach's job - it's about how you approach it and how you go about your work. My years as a coach have always been very intense and they tire you out too of course. Managing many things such as human beings does come with its difficulties."

Barcelona's style

"We always tend to romanticise things in the past. No two teams are the same; every team has its own time. A coach's job is to get the best out of the players. On top of that, at Barcelona we want to do that in an attractive way, because our fans are used to watching good football and you can play good football in many ways. We need the ball and we want to have it. In most games - except, I think, against Bayern where the possession was quite even - we use the ball to dominate the match and we try to do that in the opposition half.

"But that doesn't mean you're always going to be able to do that - because you've got opponents in front of you, because players don't always have a perfect day, because we coaches make mistakes all the time when we prepare for or envisage certain things. We think one thing is going to happen and then something different happens. That's because things are constantly changing and it's a very complicated sport. You have a huge pitch, 11 players who are supposed to have the same identity and the same ideas. It's very difficult to do things collectively."

This season

"That's why the greatest thing about this season, in my opinion, is the fact we have a team with a unique and special strike force who have shown themselves willing and able to work for the rest of the team - realising that in order to defend we all have to defend together. To concede just 19 goals in 37 league games, you need everyone to work hard and work together, and to press as a unit and do whatever we decide to at any given moment.

"That requires hard work, which is what the players have produced, and it's been rewarded with the possibility of winning trophies. I find that very gratifying as a coach, and then obviously it's a joy to behold the individual quality up front when a player finishes things off in the box, which is the most difficult area."

Coach's vision

"It's the coach who has the overall vision. When I decide who's in the team, the player's response might simply be 'that bastard didn't pick me', when maybe I haven't picked him because I'm thinking about the next match when he's going to play, so I don't want to risk him here, or I think it's the best thing for this particular match.

"Your vision is an overall one. That means you have to handle a lot of information and often use it to help the player; then other times you don't tell them whether or not they're going to play, because you consider that it's better for them to be on their toes so that they're ready.

"There are lots of things. What I'm getting at is that the vision is very different to a player's. Some of the coaches I had, I didn't even remember the drills they would run, and then when I wanted to start coaching I thought, 'Wow, that guy who used to do that, it must have been for this reason.'

"That thought process came later, not when I was a player. When I was a player the vision was individual. It was, 'How can I get through on goal? How should I mark my man? I wonder if I'll start. Here's hoping we win trophies.' It was individual."

Adapting to coaching

"When you look at it as a coach, the picture certainly changes! It really is complex and there are lots of difficulties. It's a profession that unfortunately I take home with me - you spend many nights thinking, 'X isn't working, Y ...' It's a very intense profession and it takes a lot out of you, but it's also exciting, it's got both sides of the coin. When you see your team do things that you've told them, you've communicated something and you see that the players have taken it on board and it pays off in the result, that reinforces the group's faith in you and is a very nice feeling."


"Xavi Hernández ... He was on the verge of leaving last summer but luckily he stayed. With Xavi now, it is the same as what happened with me and Frank Rijkaard ten years ago. You are no longer a leader on the pitch, although you may still be able to bring things to the table. During my last year here, it was the first year for Frank Rijkaard and his coaching staff. Well, it's difficult for a player to suddenly ... You always played, you were one of the leaders, and then suddenly you stop playing. It's hard. But then you see you can do another job.

"In the end I'm glad I did it because I am proud to have done so and achieved what I have this season. Although the ideal of a team is to have players on the inside helping those coming from the outside - players advising and encouraging each other during important times - in reality it's an important role that not many players fulfil, because it is difficult. I understand, it is difficult."


"Three seasons ago I was lucky enough to be the Roma manager. So for the last two years I have been following Italian football. At home I watch lots of Roma games and Juve games, as a fan ... I follow Italian football. I watched Juventus in recent years with Antonio Conte. They were a very hardworking team who I think played good football. Maybe they were unlucky in Europe, but they had the ability to go a lot further in the Champions League. They are the Italian team who have been playing at the highest level in recent years.

"So get ready for a final between two teams fighting for the ball. Juventus are able to shut down and play their own way without being punished. They can maintain possession. They are capable of counterattacking. I think they are a very well-rounded team. And I think you can see what the manager brings to the table."

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