Barcelona. — – Following Barcelona’s 6-1 demolition of La Liga relegation candidates Sporting Gijon at Camp Nou this morning (NZT), Luis Enrique announced he will step down as manager of the Spanish champions after three years in charge of the Catalan side. The 46-year-old – who has won eight titles since he became manager of the club in 2014, including two La Liga’s, two Copa del Rey’s, a Champions League title and a FIFA Club World Cup since 2014 – stated that he needs rest following his hugely successful spell, which has also seen him win FIFA World Coach of the Year in 2015.
“I need to rest,” Enrique told the post-match news conference.
“I won’t be the coach of Barcelona next season. It was a very difficult decision for me, very well-thought out. The reason clearly had to do with the way of life I need to have in this profession, constantly having to find solutions, constantly trying to improve my team.
“That means very little time to rest, very little time to disconnect. After this season it will be good for me to get some rest.”
The shock resignation of the former Spanish international has sparked a flurry of activity amongst betting agencies across Europe, with many beginning to offer odds on who will take over the managerial reigns of the five-time European champions.
One of these betting agencies, Irish-based Paddy Power, has released an extensive list of potential cadidates to become the next head coach of Barcelona, with current Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli the leading candidate, with odds of 3/1 to become Barça’s next head honcho.
There is a vast range of other managers and former players that have been listed as potential candidates for the job, varying from increasingly unpopular Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (5/1), to Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez (20/1), while even former Manchester United flop David Moyes (100/1) gets a mention.
Perhaps an even more surprising name to have been included in the list, however, is Guillem Balagué, with the football journalist – who covers Spanish football for Sky Sports UK as well as having authored books on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola – being listed as a 500/1 outsider to land the top job in the Mediterranean city. Despite the tempting idea of winning $5000 off a $10 bet on Balagué becoming manager of one of the most successful clubs on the planet, the immense unlikelihood of that actually happening means the Spaniard will more than likely stay on as a journalist for Sky Sports, while any ambitious punter contemplating placing a bet will probably be $10 poorer at the conclusion of Barcelona’s next manager announcement press conference. Arsene Wenger said he had no interest in succeeding Luis Enrique as Barcelona coach yesterday, but admitted his future as Arsenal manager remains up in the air.
Wenger says he will have to make a “lucid and objective” decision on his Arsenal future at the end of the season.
It was another clear hint the Arsenal manager is ready to leave this summer after 20 years in charge, although he admitted his preference is to stay at the Emirates.
Wenger (67) made the remarks yesterday when quizzed if he would be interested in taking over from Luis Enrique at Barcelona this summer as his current £8m-a-year contract expires this summer.
“I have been here for 20 years and I had many times the opportunity to leave so I don’t think I have to convince you that my preference has always been Arsenal,” said Wenger.
“But of course I am objective and lucid enough to make the right decision for myself and the club as well.
The club is free to make the decision it wants and I will respect that.
“My preference has always been the same and will remain the same.
Of course I am not looking for jobs in other clubs or jobs off other people, I am focused on me, getting to the next level and trying to improve and always trying to see what you can do better and reinvent yourself and that’s what I try to do.
That’s basically it.”
Enrique has already publicly stated that he will stand down this summer and Wenger has been under pressure to clarify his own position to dispel lingering doubts and also try to galvanise fans to help Arsenal’s run-in.
Wenger denied that a manager announcing he is leaving would mean the players take their eyes off the ball. — NZ Herald/The Mirrior