As speculations about his future mount, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique appears to have decided on who will take over as he steps down. Juan Carlos Unzue, assistant to Luis Enrique, looks set to be named as the replacement for Enrique. In doing so, Enrique will go down the route of Pep Guardiola, who named Tito Vilanova as the Barcelona boss after stepping down in 2012.
After being in charge since 2014, Enrique is the third longest serving Barcelona manager – behind Frank Rijkaard and Guardiola. Enrique has been immensely successful after winning two league titles, one Champions League, two Spanish Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, and one FIFA Club World Cup in his two-and-a-half years at the club. His contract runs out in the summer and it is becoming unlikely that he will stay.
If he does leave in the summer, it may be without a La Liga title. According to CrownBet’s odds, Barcelona are not the favourites for the league title. This is in spite of moving within a point of Real Madrid – having played a game more. The inconsistent form over the last couple of months seems to be taking its toll on the club. This season, Madrid looks like a more cohesive unit while Barcelona is just heavily dependent on Suarez and Messi to get them over the line.
While Guardiola’s managerial reign at the Camp Nou was stupendously successful with almost every club across the world trying to copy his philosophy; Enrique’s success does not seem to have achieved the same kind of reverberation. He has faced criticisms for his tactics, which largely seems to be based on getting the ball to the front three of MSN –Messi, Suarez, and Neymar – as quickly as possible. Enrique’s time at the club finally spelt a death kneel to the tiki-taka approach of Guardiola.
Unzue is not expected to deviate much from the current style of play. He was already seen in the dugout earlier in the season against Hercules in the Copa del Rey. It is now believed to have been a test for the 49-year-old. Unlike Vilanova, Juan Carlos Unzue did not come through the ranks at Barcelona as a player. He was signed from Osasuna and spent only two seasons at the Camp Nou – making only five appearances, before departing for Sevilla, where he spent seven seasons and made 222 appearances.
Unlike many of the managers before him, Unzue could possibly face the biggest challenge of managing a team without Lionel Messi. Concerns are growing about the future of the superstar, as he is yet to sign a new contract. The 29-year-old’s existing deal runs out in the summer of 2018. Soon to be 30, it is rumoured that Messi is contemplating the possibility of a new challenge.
As great as they are, would the likes of Guardiola and Enrique have achieved the same level of success if they did not have a player like Lionel Messi?
The future may be uncertain, but Barcelona has always come through and thrived as a club. It would be no surprise to see them do the same again.