Is Luis Enrique the Right Man to Lead Barcelona's Rebuilding Project?

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

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One of the worst-kept secrets in Spanish football has finally become official. Catalan giants FC Barcelona have announced that former star Luis Enrique has signed a two-year contract to become the club's next manager, replacing Tata Martino.

The announcement comes with the club also revealing that keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has become the first official signing, while Rafinha and Gerard Deulofeu return from their season-long loan spells.

Additionally, Lionel Messi put pen to paper on his new contract with the club earlier Monday, making it one of the busiest days for the club in recent history, via Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail.

A few days ago, president Josep Maria Bartomeu announced that there would be massive changes this summer, via TomConn of It was well-known that the club was going to undergo a rebuilding project after the season ended, and it appears as though that time is already upon us.

Despite everything that happened Monday afternoon, no news is as influential as the hiring of Enrique. As the Catalans enter a new era in the club's rich history, every step forward will rest on the new manager's shoulders.

So the question must be asked: Is Luis Enrique the right man to lead Barcelona during this time of rebuilding?

Enrique grew up in Gijon, Spain, where he also began his footballing career. In 1991, he joined Real Madrid, where he played for five seasons. After seeing his contract run out, the Spanish attacker joined Barcelona in 1996, where he went on to become a club legend.

Lalo R. Villar/Associated Press

For many in Barcelona, Enrique is seen as an adopted Catalan. He grew to love the club while he wore the jersey and was a fan favorite. Barcelona was his home, and it didn't take him long to return.

Enrique began his coaching career by taking over Barcelona B in 2008, immediately after Pep Guardiola was promoted to first-team manager. The new manager would immediately find success and was a perfect fit.

After just two seasons in charge, he led the reserve side back to the second division after an absence of over a decade. He would eventually take Barcelona B all the way to the promotional playoffs, though they were unable to compete due to it being their first time in the Primera.

The club has since gotten further away from giving chances to youth stars, and many see Enrique's exit as a reason for Barcelona B's struggles under current manager Eusebio Sacristan.

Enrique left the club in 2011 to manage his first top-level club when he was handed the job at Italian side Roma. Expected to bring results and a new way of playing, Enrique's Roma side struggled mightily and the Spanish coach left after just one season.

The former Barcelona man would eventually be named manager of La Liga side Celta Vigo in 2013. It took Enrique a while to settle in, but he was soon getting the very best out of his players.

After leading Celta Vigo to a ninth-place finish this season, Enrique officially revealed that he would be leaving the club just a few days ago, via The Guardian.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

With the struggles that Barcelona faced under Tata Martino, Enrique's Celta Vigo exit looked all too telling. Everyone knew he would be taking over as the new Barcelona manager, but there are several issues that must be addressed.

To begin with, Enrique does not have a rich or successful managerial career. He has only spent two seasons coaching first-division clubs, both of which he left after only a season.

His year at Roma was quite telling. Though Enrique was known for not being afraid to make unpopular choices, he was also not able to get the best out of his team and severely underperformed.

He had to leave Roma after such a disappointing year, and eventually taking over at Celta Vigo was certainly a step backward for the manager. However, his stint at the Spanish club can be seen as nothing but a success.

When he was named manager of Celta Vigo, the club was in a state of uncertainty and looking for leadership. Enrique stepped right in and, after a few early stumbles, was able to lead the club in a major way.

So of the two years of top-level coaching experience Enrique carries with him to Barcelona, one season was awful; the other was quite good. But it should be mentioned that expectations and pressure were a lot lower at Celta Vigo than at Roma.

Lalo R. Villar/Associated Press

Is Enrique the type of manager who struggles on the big stage yet excels at coaching smaller clubs? With the little bit of evidence we have, that seems to be the case.

Yet, there is an alternative explanation. 

Enrique spent his entire playing career in Spain. His managerial career in Spain was also very impressive. It was when he left his home country that struggle ensued. Could it simply be the case of La Liga being his perfect fit?

Regardless of his strengths and weaknesses, Enrique is now at the helm of Barcelona, which will be a much different, and bigger, job than he has ever undertaken. The club is putting a lot of trust in their legend, but there isn't much of a track record.

For now, Enrique has proved that he can make the tough decisions and knows how to push his players. He is also a big proponent of using youth talent and isn't afraid to try something new if he thinks it will work.

What he is bringing to Barcelona is exactly what the club needs. Since Guardiola left, Barcelona have missed having a manger who will actually lead the team and challenge his players to be even better. Enrique is exactly that.

Lalo R. Villar/Associated Press

At the same time, Enrique possesses extensive knowledge of the club and familiarity with Barcelona's style and system. He is at home at the Camp Nou, and things won't change a whole lot when he is finally handed the keys to the team.

If Barcelona is serious about making changes, the club will also have to be careful not to change too much. Again, Enrique is the right man to buy into that mentality. He will keep the Barcelona way alive and well, but he will offer new ideas and tactics that could be valuable.

But, for every strength Enrique has, there is also a big weakness.

Taking over one of the biggest clubs on the planet is not an easy task, and getting used to it will take a lot of work. Based on his lack of experience, the job could prove too big for Enrique.

Also, Enrique has little-to-no experience signing players. In his brief stints at Roma and Celta Vigo, he was not in charge of making transfer decisions. With Barcelona looking to rebuild, he will have very little to say about moves, as making calls on player transfers is something he will have to learn on the fly.

It is hard for a club to undergo a rebuilding process when the new manager does not have much influence on which players leave and which new faces arrive. Barcelona may be asking Enrique to do the impossible if they expect him to make big transfer decisions.

Barcelona are putting a lot of hope in Enrique. They are trusting that his ideas, fire and familiarity with the club will pay off on the pitch. But there is no guarantee that will happen.

What this really comes down to is that Barcelona made a wise decision based on the options they were presented with.

As it became apparent that Tata Martino would be leaving the club, Barcelona had to act fast to find a new manager. There were only two real choices, Luis Enrique and Everton boss Roberto Martinez.

All other candidates were either settled in at their clubs, or too off the radar for Barcelona. The choice came down to Enrique and Martinez, and Enrique simply made the most sense.

Martinez has never been affiliated with Barcelona and has very little coaching experience as well. He has spent his entire managerial career in England and has a philosophy that doesn't really match Barcelona's style.

Enrique was the only one that had both the familiarity with Barcelona that was needed and the philosophy in accordance with what the club was looking for.

Everyone will continue to ask whether Enrique was the right choice to usher in this new era at Barcelona. Simply put, there really was no other option. 

The club is entrusting Enrique with more responsibility than he's ever had. Whether he will be able to handle it, the world will have to wait and see. But for now, Barcelona made the very best decision that they could. This is the hand that Barcelona was dealt—now to see if they played their cards right.

You can check out Enrique managerial track record on Barcelona official club website.

Was Enrique the right man for the job? How will his managerial career at Barcelona play out? Leave your thoughts and comments below!


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