Should Luis Enrique Extend His Contract at Barcelona?

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistNovember 14, 2016

Luis Enrique has been very successful.
Luis Enrique has been very successful.Miguel Morenatti/Associated Press

Luis Enrique's contract expires in June 2017, leaving him with little over half a year at Barcelona.

It is only natural that speculation over whether he will stay or leave has begun, although the coach laid out his position at the start of the season and is sticking to his guns on it.

He explained in a press conference in pre-season that he will not be making a decision until the end of this campaign, and when pressed on the matter a few days later after Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Celtic on July 30, he insisted that the matter was not up for discussion.

"The club know my opinion already, and I don't have anything to say," he explained. "I already said what I was thinking about my renewal in my first press conference. I'm not interested at all in talking about it."

The club accepted his position, with sporting director Robert Fernandez and director of professional sports Albert Soler speaking about it in September. Fernandez said, per Sport:

I see Luis Enrique with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, but everything in time. There are always situations which need resolving at Barca and the coach's renewal is an important one, but the moment will arrive and we will always look for the best. The most important thing is that the manager is calm, happy and with the right mind-set to take on the season. I am completely relaxed.

Soler added:

In their press conferences, both the manager and the president have commented that it's not something which worries them. We don't have it on the agenda yet. It will come when it has to come. At the moment it is not a matter which worries us. We're aware that his contract expires at the end of the season.

However, as the months tick by, the issue will become more pressing.

Luis Enrique is in Pep Guardiola's old role.
Luis Enrique is in Pep Guardiola's old role.Francisco Seco/Associated Press

There are three parties—or entities—to be considered when deciding if Luis Enrique should renew his contract with Barcelona: the club, the coach himself and the supporters.

As far as Barcelona are concerned, their primary plan is to get the Asturian to sign a new deal.

Bringing him in to replace Tata Martino was a gamble to some extent because, although they knew him from his time coaching Barcelona B—not to mention his years as a player—he had only spent one year at Roma and then one at Celta Vigo.

He had not achieved much as a coach, and yet here he was, appointed in one of the biggest roles in world football.

For a while it seemed a bad choice. Luis Enrique had to learn how to handle characters like Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, who didn't react well to his strict approach.

As he loosened his grip on Barcelona's star trident, they tightened theirs on the throats of opponents.

The coach's relationship with Leo Messi has improved a lot.
The coach's relationship with Leo Messi has improved a lot.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

In January 2015, Barcelona seemed on the verge of crisis. By June they had won the treble, matching Pep Guardiola's achievements in his first season.

His relationship with his players thawed, and now he and the team are on the same level. They have seen he can bring them success and thus are willing to listen. There are always the odd few here and there—Aleix Vidal for example—who end up getting on the wrong side of the coach, but if the core is with Lucho, then the team will move in the right direction.

It is sometimes hard to build a bond between a team and a coach, but with that now established, the club will look to take advantage of it in the years ahead.

The flow of trophies has shown no sign of stopping, with Barcelona winning the league-and-cup double in Luis Enrique's second season, as well as the Club World Cup and European Super Cup. This season sees Barcelona doing well in the two competitions that have begun, two points behind Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and leading their Champions League group.

Barcelona have started this season reasonably well.
Barcelona have started this season reasonably well.Paul White/Associated Press

As explained by the vice-president of sports at the club, Jordi Mestre, when Luis Enrique renewed his contract in the summer of 2015, the latter was not difficult to deal with. Instead, he thought more about his assistants than expanding his own salary.

Mestre explained, per Sport: "The last thing he wanted to talk about was himself, he was more demanding for his team than himself. He is not too ambitious or pretentious with himself. He cares more about the others than himself."

So, from the club's perspective, renewing his deal is a clear yes. From the coach's angle, however, it's a difficult call to make.

Luis Enrique said that he would leave the club if he didn't have the energy to continue, so that's something for him to decide—and partly why he will only reveal his future at the end of the season.

Clubs like this can be stressful to navigate.
Clubs like this can be stressful to navigate.Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Managing clubs like Barcelona takes its toll, with Guardiola even taking a sabbatical from football after leaving the job.

As Sport's Lluis Miguelsanz explained, it's this wear and tear that will influence his choice, rather than any issues over money or football issues:

The dilemma is not centred on economic terms, or sporting ones, but on the convenience or not of extending a successful cycle weighing up the personal wear and tear. It's evident that he is in charge of a top level group, with so much talent and that the team has potential to grow and spend money on players, but his position also obviously runs managers down inside and out.

As a former Barcelona player, there is no better job for him to have. With Messi at the club, the finest player of all time, there is no better player for him to manage.

The only question is whether continuing fits into his life plan. The coach has three children, Xana, Pacho and Sira. If he decides to leave Barcelona, then it's hard to imagine him walking straight into a new role—it will instead be to spend time with them and his wife, Elena.

Family is important for Luis Enrique.
Family is important for Luis Enrique.Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Finally, the fans. And despite the success Luis Enrique has brought back to Camp Nou after the lean year under Tata, there is a split in opinion.

Many Barcelona fans, the pragmatists, believe Lucho is doing a good job with the team and hope he stays. Others, the dreamers, are less convinced about the football he plays and whether he gives enough playing time to the youngsters coming through.

Letting Alex Grimaldo leave, buying Paco Alcacer instead of keeping Munir El Haddadi around and shipping Sergi Samper off on loan are all decisions with which some Barcelona fans disagree.

Barcelona's style has changed under Luis Enrique into a more rugged, less controlled, counter-attacking one when necessary, and while some see this as a positive, an extra style and a new option, others think that the club's spirit is being strangled.

But while some fans are not in favour, the ones who come to the Camp Nou generally are, and the Asturian's name rings out from the stands at nearly every match.

Even if it's just for the short term, the type of deal Lucho prefers, the logical thing is for him to extend his deal at Barcelona.

                 

Rik Sharma is Bleacher Report's lead Barcelona correspondent. All information and quotes obtained firsthand unless specified. Follow him on Twitter here: @riksharma_.

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