Treble-Winning Luis Enrique Has Proved Himself But His Barcelona Legacy Is Yet To Be Determined


It’s often said that there’s no truth in football like just winning so, basking in the glory of Barcelona’s Champions League victory, it was understandable that Gerard Pique was able to speak a little more freely.

The resurgent centre-half used some markedly frank words as he reflected on the night in Berlin and the entire season.

It wasn’t just that he said Barca “were screwed” for a 15-minute period after Juventus equalised, or that he said he would celebrate the eventual 3-1 win - and the treble - by “getting pissed. It was the choice of words to describe the most challenging part of the season.

“You can’t get better than winning like that,” Pique exhaled,” after January, when it looked like everything was falling apart.”

They very quickly picked it all back up and stood so strong together, but the fact that recovery was required and so thoroughly completed is just one other remarkable aspect of Barcelona’s otherwise perfect season. It’s also a little too easy to forget now, in the way of such wins.

 

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Really, it’s exceptionally rare that a team who reaches such historic heights also has such profound moments of difficulty in the same season. It’s similarly exceptionally rare that the future and role of a treble-winning manager would be so questioned, as has been the case with Luis Enrique.

The two, however, are obviously connected.

Some of the uncertainty is a consequence of all the concerns in January, when a defeat by Real Sociedad seemed to bring so many issues to a head. It also brought an easy line; David Moyes had just beaten the Spanish David Moyes.

Cheap as that may have been, it was not totally unjustified. There were clear parallels at that point. After a respectable but not exactly rousing final league position with a respected club, he seemed to be out of his depth as he took on one of the biggest clubs, who had a squad of players that had seen and done it all. The manager initially seemed unable to win them over, with complaints about his fitness regime and just questions about some of his tactics.

It was also at that point, though, that there was a significant divergence with Luis Enrique and it does display exactly the kind of nuance needed for a job as massive as those.

Almost everyone at Manchester United during 2013-14 says that one of Moyes’ major problems was how he never seemed comfortable or confident enough to catch the right mood. He mostly looked so meekly overawed, as was evident with so many of those facial expressions on the touchline, but often rashly tried to counteract that by being too harsh when it came to the big players.

They were too experienced - or perhaps too stubborn - to be won over by something so simplistic and transparent, and evidently didn’t really believe in the manager. Worse, it often looked like he didn’t really believe in himself, with that hesitation at every step undercutting everything he did.

With Luis Enrique, it was almost the opposite. He believed in himself too much. That led to similar problems, but a different response.

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The Spaniard realised he had to catch the right tone in a way Moyes couldn’t. A man so notoriously single-minded came to a compromise. That in itself is remarkable and is a piece of top management. The entente that brought has been the foundation for all that followed. We’ve seen the best of Leo Messi, one of the best attacks of all time, a fine defence behind them and ultimately one of the historic achievements in football.

Luis Enrique is certainly no Spanish Moyes. The wonder, however, is what he will eventually end up as.

For all the success he’s overseen this season, it isn’t unreasonable or unfair to think that Luis Enrique would struggle to reach anywhere near the same level with any other club. That is because he is not quite the driving force of the success in the same way as any of the true elite managers are, like Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola.

But can he get close to them, or will he end up like a Luis Carniglia or Dettmar Cramer - both repeat European Cup winners who the game hasn’t really remembered?

That is the next challenge, although he is already well aware of it.

In that regard, there would be no truth like a second successive Champions League win.