When Luis Enrique names his Spain squad for the World Cup on Friday, the soccer world will be ready for him. This Teflon-hard, single-minded man likes to defy people’s expectations and lives to thwart his many enemies. Fueled by criticism and controversy, the cartoon character Popeye is talking about a man who grew muscles after eating a can of spinach.
So when the Spain coach read out the 26 names selected, everyone wondered whether the brilliant but injured Ansu Fati, who was left out of the final squad, would go to Qatar, with Spain coach and 36-year-old defender Sergio Ramos risking taking Mikel Oyarzabal despite the fact that the forward has not played since March. Will Real upset Sociedad?
But if you’re interested in the future of Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, Manchester City, Liverpool or any of Europe’s up-and-coming elite clubs, there’s another frisson of interest. Because this could easily be the last “Lucho”-read Spain squad.
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Considering how well he did when he was in charge La Roja — Euro 2020 semi-finalists, 2021 Nations League finalists, and again in the 2023 Nations League semi-finals in the final four next June — and with relatively limited resources, many fans and observers around Spain will be hoping it doesn’t happen. extended start adios. But the fact remains that the contract of this talented, active and aggressive 52-year-old footballer with the Spanish Football Federation did not expire at the end of the World Cup.
All attempts to renew his contract have already been rejected. Already, Spanish football’s drums are beating with the message that Atleti are very tempted to deal with the dwindling revenues of the Diego Simeone regime, with Luis Enrique asked if he wants to return to club football after his Qatar stint.
All this a few days ago, former Real Madrid, Valencia and national team goalkeeper Santiago Canizares said on the radio: “Maybe the best thing for ‘Cholo’. [Simeone] and Atlético must part ways to avoid stagnation. They haven’t played good football in a few seasons. The name of the character who will manage Atleti comes to mind: Luis Enrique.”
Also, I know one LaLiga-winning, European Cup finalist who believes that if Luis Enrique is on the verge of returning to club football, Barcelona president Joan Laporta will have a serious dilemma as to whether or not to watch such a game. The Camp Nou player and coach will either strengthen one of his enemies or strike first by recruiting him instead.
Currently, the Spain coach enjoys a very pleasant lifestyle: spending quality time with his family in his Mediterranean village, continuing his almost obsessive drive to be fit, lean, healthy and competitive, balanced with vigorous football activity. This allows him to devote all his energy to the project without the daily, weekly, monthly wear and tear of all the top club coaches.
But his Spain side – reliant on an overplayed and under-pressure Barcelona midfield of Gavi, Sergio Busquets and Pedro – face Costa Rica, Germany and Japan in group play in Qatar, where there is a very attractive “safety”. “net” is a chance to win next year’s UEFA Nations League trophy against Croatia, Italy or the host Netherlands as early as June.
It’s easy to imagine Luis Enrique extending his contract until then or even longer, but names the clubs he would leave without compensation if they offered him the chance to work as a coach. What could this mean? Simply put, clubs interested in his services either immediately or through the 2023-24 season should be looking for a position now.
The Spanish Football Federation’s president, Luis Rubiales, has been far from encouraging in his recent comments on the subject. As he did with Julen Lopetegui during Spain’s World Cup 2018 start in Russia, he seemed prepared to impose his will or ego on the situation.
Rubiales told the radio: “[Luis Enrique] may or may not stay. It could be because of his decision or ours [the FA] the decision. It’s part of football and he understands if it’s our decision and we understand if it’s his.”
Now, I’m neither an agent nor an employment lawyer, but Rubiales’ words seem far from “we want him to stay, he knows how important he is to us”… we’ll find a way to convince him. to stay…”
Perhaps Pep Guardiola is preparing for an explosive, long trip at Manchester City after realizing he will enjoy a second “Messi-esque” experience thanks to Erling Holland.
Although Lionel Messi and Haalan may not have very different physical similarities and playing styles, what they share is their uncanny ability to take games away from their opponents. Why wouldn’t you want to ride that wave for a few super successful seasons? But if Guardiola wants to fulfill one of his dreams, coaching Brazil (or even England) to the 2026 World Cup, there is no better candidate than Luis Enrique to take his base job and extend it.
Attitudes, mentality, football philosophy, and a willingness to promote and trust talent regardless of age: there are many things that link Guardiola and Luis Enrique, former Barca teammates.
Who knows who will buy Liverpool, how soon or how Jurgen Klopp feels about a potential change of guard? But when Klopp finally decides to take his much-discussed sabbatical and travel the world with his wife Ulla, Luis Enrique would be an even more attractive candidate there.
Spain’s coaching has been an important part of the family’s recovery from the most traumatic loss, as he and his family, even after the loss of their daughter Xana in 2019, are eager to tap into his talent and volcanic energy again. cannot be denied. It’s a stone-cold fact: he’s a very good coach, incredibly intelligent in his profession, forward-thinking, and always looking to find the little touches of improvement to play an exciting brand of football.
He previously told me, “The main idea for my coach is ‘attack’. When me and my staff pick a team, the first thing we look at is what our players can offer in attack. When my teams lose the ball, we put pressure on the opponent and win it back.” attack very accurately.
“The third crucial idea is ‘ambition.’ By that I mean my team plays with the same attitude no matter who they face, no matter where they are, no matter what the score is. We attack and defend the same every game. So now I have a philosophy of taking risks. giving the game to the opponents and being decisive in the match”.
If he’s reading this, he’s pissed. None of this is going to stop him from Spain punching (perhaps above) their weight in Qatar next month, which brings us back to his squad announcement.
It’s been a year since some of the Madrid press mocked him for including 17-year-old Gavi in their Nations League squad to face European champions Italy. I overheard some journalists talking after the manager’s press conference and they believed the Spanish coach was talking about controversially picking a kid who played very little in Barcelona’s first team and stirring up an ‘anti-Lucho’ media.
They were wrong, and very wrong. Gavi now has 12 national team caps and is central to Spain’s World Cup campaign. Could there be something like an equivalent this time?
Then there’s Ramos. There was a time when the former Madrid captain was a bit obsessed with statistics, racking up more than 180 caps and an unbeaten international tally. Luis Enrique imagined the world of Ramos as a defender, a captain, a professional footballer. Guys like those two don’t make ‘love’, but this was the next best thing.
Ramos told Luis Enrique ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Kosovo in March 2021 that he was fine and ready to come on as a substitute. He returned to his club injured, playing the last four minutes of a 3-1 win, missing several weeks for Madrid and feeling as if Luis Enrique had pulled the wool over his eyes; The defender has not played for Spain since.
Now he is playing well at PSG La Roja There are plenty of left-footed central defenders, but they are not the right-footed partner they need. Ahead of PSG’s recent Champions League clash with Juventus, Ramos admitted that “everyone knows how important it is for me to play for my country: I feel good, but it depends on the manager.”
Will Luis Enrique forgive Ramos, recall him and even reinstate him as captain? It’s a massive challenge and it should be right: there is no gray area with two people with such a harsh personality.
Follow this story. At Euro 2020, Spain twice scored five goals, conceded an own goal of the tournament, won a dramatic penalty shootout and lost one. In the last Nations League, they defeated the European champions and shook the cage of the world champions. Luis Enrique has never been and never will be free of controversy, intensity and fun. His players respect him, and if this tournament is his last with Spain, it means he will be fired up win, lose or draw.