In the aftermath of a frantic evening of Liga action, Barcelona 6-1 victory was barely mentioned. All minds were on what occurred afterwards in the press room when Luis Enrique declared he would be leaving in the summer. The announcement of his decision comes three months before the end of the season and at a time when Barcelona’s league title hopes reemerged.
It came much sooner than the last Barcelona boss to do so. Pep Guardiola announced his intentions at the end of April when the club were already out of Europe and had lost significant ground to Real Madrid in the title race. Enrique though is top of the Liga table, in the Copa del Rey final and not out of the Champions League just yet.
The announcement could go one of two ways. The players rally together and finish the season strongly in an effort to make sure Enrique leaves on a high or it could have the opposite affect and the squad loses its intensity. Knowing your coach won’t be there next season alleviates some of the pressure on you to perform as it won’t have any long term repercussions. This latter is not always something the players are aware of but instead find themselves doing so subconsciously.
An example of this came for Guardiola’s current club, Manchester City, last season. The club announced at the start of February that Manuel Pellegrini was to be replaced by Guardiola and the team proceeded to nose dive. They won three of the next eleven games and effectively ruled themselves out of the title race, just scraping into the top four on the final day of the season.
“I’m not forgetting there are still three incredible months to go.” - Enrique
Enrique is hoping for a positive reaction but there is a genuine worry this could happen to the Barça players at a time when Madrid have finally started to drop points. Barcelona’s form has been inconsistent throughout the season but they recently turned a corner, winning the last four league games. They currently sit at the top of the table having played a game more than Madrid and with a Clásico remaining.
On the other hand, perhaps Enrique just wanted transparency with his squad. These are people who see him day after day and they may have began to sense that Enrique was nearing the end. By coming out and saying it now, he puts an end to the speculation so him and the team can solely focus on the climax of the season.
Enrique has never been a man to ease off. He shares Guardiola’s intensity and while it does make for a quick burn out, it means he is unlikely to allow the team to sleepwalk to the end of the season.