Luis Enrique’s contract expires at the end of the current season, so, naturally, the question arises of whether or not the Asturian manager should renew. The first question to answer is whether or not Barcelona needs him to renew -- to which the answer is an emphatic YES.
Luis Enrique has taken a leading role in guiding Barcelona through the challenges of moving past some of the big names of yesteryear -- a task that was never going to be easy given the vast success in recent years.
The Asturian manager has successfully replaced Victor Valdes. With the goalkeepers personal fall from grace in mind, that may seem like a small feat, but, at the time of his departure, Valdes was just as integral as Messi to Barcelona’s signature playing style.
Xavi Hernandez was a necessary cog in Barcelona’s midfield, and, through the leadership of Lucho, the team has seamlessly maintained the same level of competitiveness without him. Sure, the legendary No.6 is still missed, but the team's level of competitiveness has not dropped as most feared.
Similarly, the squad has continued thriving despite the loss of the seemingly irreplaceable Daniel Alves. The recent displays of La Masia graduate Sergi Roberto, while still not at the level of the Brazilian's best years, is promising.
Having said that, the transition period is not quite over for Barcelona.
This season there is a considerable group of new arrivals, some of whom lack experience, that needs to be integrated into the squad. Given his knowledge of the current players, Luis Enrique must engineer this team's future.
Whether we like it or not, there is a potentially huge crisis looming in the future for Barcelona. Lionel Messi is getting older every day and, although the trend of the past few years has been for players to continue playing longer than their predecessors, Messi (and Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez, for that matter) will inevitably retire. The loss of such a supernova could have crippling effect on the squad and a leader with Luis Enrique’s abilities is necessary to make sure the club does not crumble at such a time.
When asked about the renewal of Luis Enrique’s contract, Barcelona sporting director Robert Fernandez gave a laid-back, nonchalant response. In summary, he claimed that renewing the Asturian's contract is not a priority at the moment. He asserted that Enrique is happy, and that’s basically all that matters.
Despite how it may seem, Fernandez’s unbothered attitude is not necessarily and affront to Luis Enrique. This seems to be Fernandez’s modus operandi, unfortunately. When Sergio Busquets wanted to reevaluate his contract, Fernandez repeatedly assured the midfielder that they would meet to discuss it. Busquets made his wishes known in the middle of last season, but Fernandez subsequently delayed all efforts to negotiate until the summer -- putting the future of one of Barca's best players at risk.
Fernandez has his tactics, and, if I had to guess, this is probably his method of attempting to get players and managers alike to agree to less expensive contracts. Although the Catalan's sporting director isn’t being offensive, his lack of decisiveness may actually tempt Luis Enrique should leave Barcelona at the end of this season.
More importantly, it can be argued Luis Enrique should follow Pep Guardiola's example and leave for the long-term benefit of his own managing career. Despite achieving one hundred victories with Barcelona faster than many other big name managers have, the Asturian is an extremely underrated manager. Some try to discredit the success that the manager has achieved because he has achieved it with such an insanely talented squad.
A move away from Barcelona could help Luis Enrique silence his doubters and give himself an opportunity for more lucrative opportunities with other clubs in the future.
There are plenty of teams that display a chronic inability to continue being successful after a big name leaves the club. This seems to be a phenomenon for some of the permanent mid table finishers in the Premier League.
If Luis Enrique was to have a successful stint with one of these major yet perennially unsuccessful teams for a few years, he would then receive the superstar status that his talents deserve. Plus, the Asturian would then be likely to get contracts with teams that don’t play around with contract renewals.
Only time will tell what the future holds but Cules should certainly not bet their house on Luis Enrique still being at the Camp Nou next season.
By Marissa Blackman, columnist at Barcablog.