5 Big Decisions for New Barcelona Coach Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique has already been beavering away and working as hard as possible in his new role as manager of the first team at Barcelona.
With many of his team away on World Cup duty, and therefore back to pre-season later than normal, "Lucho" will have to devise much of what he initially wants from his staff in the absence of the main bulk of the squad.
After a trophy-less season bar the Spanish Supercup, Barca expects. Therefore the pressure is on the manager to deliver from the get-go.
Let's take a look at five big decisions that Lucho will need to make.
Who Plays Alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar
With just one spot left, perhaps on the right side of the three, who is likely to own the shirt?
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has confirmed, via SkySports, that Alexis Sanchez is not for sale, despite rumours linking him with a move elsewhere, so he is definitely a contender. Bartomeu noted:
Alexis is not a Barcelona player who is on the market.
He has a contract with us and that is the only thing that counts. He has had an excellent season for us.
Obviously, he is part of our plans for next season. We have always wanted him here and he is a highly valued player at this club.
Pedro Rodriguez had been sharing the duty with Sanchez so if the status quo remains the same, he has to be considered also.
Whilst far from a regular, Cristian Tello has been getting minutes in the position, and as of this moment there is no suggestion that he is leaving over the summer.
Gerard Deulofeu has been recalled from his successful loan spell at Everton, one would think with a view to a first team spot. You wouldn't imagine the youngster would be too happy going back to the bench after showing his worth in the Premier League.
And don't discount Adama Traore, who has been ripping it up in the youth and reserve levels and has been knocking on the first team door for a while now.
To Tiki Taka or Not to Tiki Taka, That Is the Question
For a manager who has played the "Barca way" for years, the question of tiki-taka or not may seem a little redundant.
It was the way he played the game, it's the way the Barca B side that he coached played the game and it's the way that Celta Vigo played last season.
Yet, for all of Tata Martino's faults, he opened up an avenue of play that, whilst not universally popular, was certainly successful until the back end of the season.
Players such as Gerard Pique spoke out in support of such a change, per Marca, at the beginning of the season.
Will Lucho stick to the tried and tested come what may, or is he brave enough to change up if the need arises?
Ter Stegen or Bravo
Assuming the transfer of Claudio Bravo from Real Sociedad is completed successfully, then Barcelona will have two very good quality goalkeepers from which to choose.
Will his expected acquisition put Marc-Andre ter Stegen's nose out of joint, or will the German welcome the competition?
Given that the Blaugrana pursued him for such a long time, ter Stegen might feel rightly aggrieved at having to play second fiddle.
Bravo too, captain for his country and a regular for his club side, will want to play.
Both are expert goalkeepers but only one can play at a time. Does it really work having two of equal ability fighting it out for the jersey?
Who Is Lucho's Captain?
One of the first, and perhaps the biggest decisions that Lucho will make. Who will be his mouthpiece on the pitch? His general.
There are a number of good candidates and all bring something different to the party.
Xavi Hernandez was always the second in line after Carles Puyol so it would be completely understandable if he were to be "promoted."
However, age is not on his side and with a nod to the future, the manager may look to someone who still has a few years left in the tank. Victor Valdes is no longer at the club and next vice-captain is Andres Iniesta.
Again, there won't be too many complaints if the little magician gets the gig, such is his exemplary conduct on and off the pitch. A real ambassador.
But is he too quiet?
Per an interview with Barca TV as reported in AS (via Dermot Corrigan of ESPN), Enrique noted:
A captain is not whoever lifts the cup or shakes hands with the referee, it is much more. The captains should be the reference points for the players, they should be voted for and that's it. I know the personalities of the Barca players and those who can be captains.
We will have fluid communication. I do not want captains who are the most handsome, the most veteran, the nicest guys or those who sign the most autographs. I am aware of how it is at Barca. I know the personality of those who can be Barca captains, who are more than ready.
Javier Mascherano has been captain of Argentina in the past and has obvious leadership qualities and Gerard Pique probably needs the responsibility to allow him to refocus his own game.
Sergio Busquets is another who could be considered, but his role is demanding enough, by his own admission, via Graham Hunter of ESPN:
The work is intense. You have to calculate a great deal very quickly which requires football intelligence and real concentration. Part of my role is to shuttle between the defense and the attacking lines to make sure that the ball circulates well and quickly.
Often this 'Pivote' position starts the play. Defensively you are also an intermediate between our back four and the midfield and I try to mark and press so that I can isolate the opposition striker from their own midfield.
I'm a team player who needs to work a lot and sacrifice myself for the success of the group.
Therefore, to load a captaincy on top of that might be asking a little too much.
Given that FIFA's transfer ban is suspended and not completely overturned, there is a very real prospect that if Barcelona don't move quickly in the transfer market, then that much-needed central defender will be nothing but a pipe dream once again.
Enrique's transfer targets must be clearly identified, pursued and purchased ideally before the end of the World Cup to allow for a seamless transition into the pre-seaon workouts.
But which players will complement and supplement those already in situ? The list of players being linked can be found here and it will be interesting to note which, if any, of those players arrive before the start of the season.
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