Why Spain’s Luis Enrique will be in demand post-World Cup

When Luis Enrique announces his Spain World Cup squad on Friday, the soccer world will be ready. This Teflon-proof, single-minded man enjoys defying people’s expectations and lives to disrupt his many enemies. We’re talking about someone who draws strength from criticism and controversy, like the cartoon character Popeye grew muscles after squashing a can of spinach.

So when the Spanish coach reads out the 26 names chosen, everyone will be on the edge of their seats to see if the brilliant but injury-plagued Ansu Fati, who was dropped from the last squad, will go to Qatar, or Spain coach and 36-year-old defender Sergio Ramos has settled down and will he anger Real Sociedad by risking Mikel Ojarzabal, despite the striker not having played since March?

But there will be another piece of news that should interest you if you’re interested in the future of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, ​​​​PSG, Manchester City, Liverpool or any of Europe’s forward-thinking elite clubs. Because this could be the last Spanish national team that “Lucho” reads.

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Considering how great he’s done in leading La Roja — Euro 2020 semi-finalists, 2021 Nations League finalists, 2023 Nations League semi-finals in the final four next June — and with relatively limited resources, there will be plenty of fans and observers across Spain hoping it isn’t. start extended bye. But the fact remains that the talented, focused and aggressive 52-year-old is out of contract with the Spanish FA after the World Cup.

All attempts to renew his contract have so far been rejected. Already, the Spanish football drumbeat is beating the news that Atleti are sorely tempted to try to deal with the diminishing returns of Diego Simeone’s regime by asking Luis Enrique if he intends to return to club football when he finishes his stint in Qatar.

It all came to a head a couple of days ago when former Real Madrid, Valencia and international goalkeeper Santiago Canizares said on the radio: “Probably the best for Cholo [Simeone] and Atletico have to part ways — not to freeze. They haven’t played good football for a couple of seasons. One name comes to mind with an Atleti hero, and that is Luis Enrique.”

Also, I know one LaLiga winner, a European Cup finalist with a big Barca past, who believes that if Luis Enrique looks set to return to club football, then Barcelona president Joan Laporte would be in a serious dilemma whether to watch such a game. the iconic Camp Nou player and coach reinforces one of his enemies or must strike first by recruiting him.

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The counterpoint now is that the Spanish coach enjoys a very attractive lifestyle: quality time with his family in his Mediterranean village, the ability to fulfill an almost obsessive desire to stay fit, lean, healthy and competitive, balanced with intense football activities. which allows him to devote all his energy to the project without the daily, weekly and monthly wear and tear that all the best club coaches suffer from.

Although his Spain squad, heavily reliant on an overmatched and under-pressure Barcelona midfield of Gavi, Sergio Busquets and Pedri, play against Costa Rica, Germany and Japan in the group stage in Qatar, the fact is that there is a very attractive ‘safety’ . net” chance to win the trophy as soon as in June against Croatia, Italy or the host Netherlands in next year’s UEFA Nations League.

It’s easy to imagine Luis Enrique extending his contract until then or beyond, but naming the clubs he would be allowed to leave without compensation if they offered him the chance to take over as manager. What could this mean? Simply put, any club interested in his services either immediately or in 2023-24. for the season of 2018, now you have to try to get a position.

Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales’ final words on the subject were far from encouraging. It felt like he was going to impose his will or his ego on the situation, just as he did with Julen Lopetegui a few days before Spain’s start in Russia at the 2018 World Cup.

Rubiales told the radio show that: “[Luis Enrique] may or may not stay. And it could be because of his decision or ours [the FA] decision. It’s part of football and he would understand if it was our decision, just as we would understand if it was his.

Now, I’m neither an agent nor an employment lawyer, but Rubiales’ words seem far from “we want him to stay, he needs to know how important he is to us…we’ll find a way to convince him to stay…”

Pep Guardiola could be preparing for an explosive, extended run at Manchester City now that he realizes he is about to enjoy a second “Messi-like” experience thanks to Erling Haaland.

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Although Lionel Messi and Haaland share no physical resemblance and have completely different playing styles, they are linked by their uncanny ability to take games away from their opponents. Why wouldn’t you want to surf a couple of super successful seasons on this wave? However, if Guardiola wants to fulfill one of his dreams of coaching Brazil (or even England) to a World Cup win in 2026, there is no better candidate to take his initial job and extend it than Luis Enrique.

Attitude, mentality, football philosophy, and an unerring desire to promote and trust talent regardless of age: there are so many things that link Guardiola and Luis Enrique, former Barca teammates.

Who knows who will buy Liverpool, how quickly, or how Jurgen Klopp feels about a potential quarterback change? But when Klopp finally chooses to take his much-discussed sabbatical and travel the world with his wife Ulla, Luis Enrique would once again be an attractive candidate there as well.

Spain’s training has been an important part of recovering from the most traumatic family grief, as even after he and his family mourned the loss of their daughter Xana in 2019, the desire to return to re-apply his talent and volcanic energy became. impossible to ignore. It’s a cold fact: he’s an extremely good coach, extremely smart in his profession, visionary and relentless in finding tiny improvements to play an exciting brand of football.

He has told me in the past: “For my coach, the most important idea is to ‘attack’. When my staff and I pick any team, we first look at what our players can offer offensively. The concept is ‘pressure’. My teams attack very defined, well placed so that when we lose the ball we can press the opponent and win it back.

“The third crucial idea is ‘ambition’. By this I mean that my team plays with the same attitude that they face, wherever they are and whatever the result. We attack and defend in the same way every game. So now I have an attack a philosophy that takes risks and requires players to take on opponents and be decisive in the match.”

If he reads this, he will be irritated. He doesn’t want to stand in the way of Spain punching their weight (probably higher) in Qatar next month, which brings us back to his team statement.

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It’s been a year since some in the Madrid press mocked his inclusion of 17-year-old Gavi in ​​the Nations League squad to face European champions Italy. I heard some journalists talking after the manager’s press conference and they literally believed that the Spanish coach was talking about selecting a kid who has very few appearances in the Barcelona starting line-up, out of pure contradiction and to provoke the ‘anti-Lucho’ media.

They were wrong, and wildly so. Gavi has now been capped 12 times and is central to Spain’s World Cup campaign. Can there be an equivalent thing this time?

Then there’s Ramos. There was a time when the former Madrid captain was somewhat obsessed with statistics, racking up more than 180 caps and an unbeaten international tally. Luis Enrique had thought the world of Ramos as a defender, as a captain, as a professional footballer. Guys like these two don’t make “love”, but this was the next best thing.

Ramos told Luis Enrique ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Kosovo in March 2021 that he was fine and ready to start as a sub. He played the last four minutes of a 3-1 win, returned to his club, got injured, missed several weeks in Madrid and Luis Enrique felt like he had had wool pulled over his eyes; the defender has not played for Spain since then.

Now he is fit and playing well for PSG La Roja there are too many left-footed centre-backs but not the right-footed partner they need. Ahead of PSG’s recent Champions League clash with Juventus, Ramos admitted that “everyone knows how much it means to me to play in my country: I feel good and well, but it depends on the manager.”

Does Luis Enrique spare Ramos, recall him and even make him captain? It’s a huge call, and it has to be right: there’s no gray area with two men who are this amazing.

Pay attention to this story. In the 2020 tournament, Spain scored five goals twice, conceded the tournament’s own goal, won a dramatic penalty shootout and lost once. In the last Nations League, they beat the European champions and rattled the cage of the world champions. Luis Enrique has never been and never will be free from controversy, intensity or entertainment. His players respect him and are very committed, which means if this tournament is his last with Spain, win, lose or draw, it will be a fiery one.


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