Barça Legends: Luís Enrique

By:  Isaac Moreno

Luís was a good example as a captain. Those were difficult times. I have learned many things from him and I will always be grateful. I think he was a great captain. One of the things I regret the most is that the season after he left we won and he could not lift any trophy, and he deserved it.

Carles Puyol

Luis Enrique with another Sporting de Gijon/FC Barcelona legend: “Quini”

In the beginning of the 90s,  the almost hundred-year-old Sporting de Gijón, a team from Asturias and well known in Spain for its soccer “school” had a pretty good squad of young players. As it always happens,  the big teams wanted to fish there, and Barcelona signed up a midfielder named Iván Iglesias, whose most famous performance in his brief stay in Camp Nou was to be passing by when Romario sent him the ball to score the 5th goal against Real Madrid in the 93-94 season. But everyone in Catalunya knew the good Asturian midfielder was Luis Enrique who had signed with Real Madrid 2 years before. He was skilled but above all fearless.  You will realize this if you see a photo of him with a Spanish national team shirt and his face stained with blood during the US World Cup when Italian Mauro Tassotti broke his nose in a corner kick.

Luis Enrique with a broken nose in Boston.

His first years in Madrid were not good though, specially because he was used as a left-back, but with Jorge Valdano as Madrid coach he won the Liga the season 94-95 and scored one of the 5 goals against Barcelona in Bernabeu Stadium. That and his character -he was one of those players hated by everyone but their team supporters- made him kind of persona non grata in Barcelona. However, season 95-96 was one of the worst in Madrid history and Luis Enrique, refusing to renew his contract maybe because he wanted to live by the ocean, became one of the scapegoats of the merengues, and since the enemies of our enemies are our friends, Luis Enrique was more than welcomed when he landed in Barcelona the following season. In case you were wondering, by then Iván Iglesias had already gone back to Gijón and he ended up his career in the New York MetroStars (now Red Bulls).

In his first season in Barcelona, Luis Enrique scored more goals in la Liga (17) than he had scored in all his previous years in Madrid combined. This is not a strange fact, since that squad, under the command of 63 years old  sir Bobby Robson (who brought an interpreter with him called Mourinho), was so chaotic and unpredictable that an overwhelmed Guardiola spent most of the time in the pitch trying to put the players in order, starting his career as a coach. Next season, with Louis Van Gaal, he scored 18 goals and won the first of the 2 consecutive Ligas he helped us earn.

Fearless Luis Enrique never avoided contact

After that, well, FC Barcelona wandered the wilderness for six painful years or as they call it in Catalunya: the crossing of the desert or the years of the drought in which we won nothing but 2 Catalunya Cups and had 6 different coaches. Those were the times when Barcelona supporters paid more attention to the basketball team and it is fair to say we finally won the longed Euroleague.  Luis Enrique, always a favourite of the crowd, was the captain of the team from 2002 to 2004, before passing the armband to Carles Puyol. He retired at the age of 34 under the orders of Frank Rijkaard the year before Barcelona won La Liga again.

After that he moved to Australia where he surfed and ran marathons around the world before he came back to replace Guardiola as the coach of FC Barcelona B team.  He coached for one season AS Roma and Celta de Vigo before landing again in Barcelona. With him we can be assure: whoever does not run, does not play.

Luis Enrique, already a legend, says goodbye on May 16th, 2004.