The future of Barcelona's manager is uncertain. In an interview given to Barça's official television channel,Luis Enrique admitted he is not sure if he will sign a new deal at the end of this season when his contract expires. "I am not sure if I will continue. I don't have any doubt that I am at the best team in the world, the best club with the best players, in my home, with my family here and winning things and enjoying myself a lot, but..."
Being in charge of the most successful club of the last decade is exhausting. Just ask Pep Guardiola. Enrique is mirroring the approach taken by his fellow Spaniard before he announced his own departure from the Nou Camp in 2012. IBTimes UK looks at the key decisions Enrique must make in the coming months, with Jorge Sampaoli already being lined up as his successor.
There is a light that sometimes goes out
In January 2014, Luis Enrique had a frank discussion with Neymar Jr and Luis Suárez before a game against Real Sociedad in Anoeta. Both of them started the match on the bench and played an awful second half in Barça's 1-0 defeat, proving how important is to keep your stars motivated if you want to succeed in a top club. Somehow, Enrique and the South American pair made peace and Barcelona cleaned up in the coming months, winning the Champions League, La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
Though the relationship between Neymar, Messi and Luis Enrique remains good, Guardiola once explained how difficult is to keep the players motivated – even during the good times. "The day I see the light go out of my players' eyes, I know it is time to go," the Manchester City boss said in Martí Perarnau's bestseller Pep Confidential. Top European managers, such as Diego Simeone, Jurgen Klopp and José Mourinho, base their success on demanding unrelenting effort from their players. And inspiration is vital to keeping the squad performing at its maximum capacity.
There comes a moment in football where players need fresh motivation; a new face in charge of the club and new methodologies. That is why Mourinho, a manager who understands modern football better than most, observed: "For us, it is becoming tougher for someone who remains in the same club many years." Barcelona's start to the season has been their worst in a decade, and their performances are far from what we have come to expected from Catalonia. Is Enrique able to change the course of events or is he aware that the light in his players' eyes has gone out?
A sabbatical to overcome stress
Such the personal sacrifice when it comes to being in charge of Barcelona that Guardiola was forced to take a sabbatical in 2012, despite receiving offers from top European clubs. Guardiola settled in New York and during that year he decided that Bayern Munich would be his next destination. Enrique will undoubtedly follow his former team-mate's path if he finally leaves the club next June. "I am aware that next year I am either in Barcelona or nowhere. There is a part of this tough profession which I struggle with, it costs me a lot and it is a negative that I have to factor in when considering the next few seasons," he told Barca TV. These comments follow the same line of thought as Guardiola's reasons for leaving Barcelona. "It was untrue that I left due to Sandro Rosell's alleged lack of support," he told Pep Confidential. "I left because I was worn out".
Barcelona want Sampaoli
Even if Luis Enrique decides to continue, which seems unlikely, there is no guarantee the club will see him as the best option to lead Barcelona next season. Guardiola admitted, before he left, that he had run out of tactical resources. He said: "We were playing brilliantly but I was on my knees and I had no tactical ideas left, that was another reason that showed me I had to leave."
Publications including OkDiario and El Confidencial have identified Sevilla's Jorge Sampaoli as the preferred candidate to replace Enrique. "Barcelona's board of directors is analysing a list of candidates and Sampaoli is in the top of that list" reported OKDIario. "After Tata Martino's departure from Barcelona, Leo Messi tried to convince him – but Sampaoli had already signed for the Chilean national team," El Confidential added.
The decision will be announced in April
Speaking to beIN Sports, president Josep Bartomeu explained: "We will not speak about Luis Enrique's future with him until April." It was in April when Guardiola announced he was not going to continue at Barcelona. "I can not make that extra effort, you need to remain strong to transmit so many things to the players, I need to charge my batteries" he said. If recent interviews are any indication, Enrique may follow the same path.