Although current Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has the upcoming season left on his contract, speculation regarding his successor has already begun. To some, this conversation may seem premature, but its validity highlights the transient nature of the Catalan giants in this moment in history.
The Blaugranas are, after all, the best club in the world, so every move is high stakes with far reaching implications. The club is focused on preserving its illustrious legacy, and, as time has proven, no individuals are important enough to be allowed to impede that ultimate goal -- the not-so-secret formula behind the Camp Nou giants' impressive recent success.
Luis Enrique is by no means an incapable manager. If, as the commentators are predicting, his contract does not receive renewal, he will not depart from the club in shame. He has managed the team to titles, and achieved a decent measure of success with the squad. He did not only maintain, but improved the Barcelona of yesteryear and saw the club through the challenging days of the FIFA sanctioned transfer ban, but soon, the Barcelona powers that be must decide which manager can successfully lead the club into the next era of greatness.
Despite his undeniable success, Luis Enrique has been criticized of failing to efficiently utilize the resources the club has for the taking in La Masia. Some young talents, who spectators had pegged as future superstars, have left the club under his reign. With the children literally being Barcelona's future, this can certainly be seen as one bad mark on Enrique's record.
To counter such a contentious point, the Asturian manager has brought in younger talents such as Denis Suarez and Samuel Umitti in the past few weeks, so the reality might be that his opinions on which young talents are worth holding on to or trying to catch simply differ from the popular opinions of fans. Plus, it can't be denied that the talents that La Masia has produced in recent times are nowhere near as promising as Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez or Lionel Messi ever where.
Regardless of whether or not Luis Enrique is doing it, Barcelona must focus on the future since many of the dynamic, priceless footballers that have carried the torch of Barcelona's legendary status are gradually but certainly aging out of the game or moving on from the club. If the board believe that the Asturian is the man to take them into the future, they should not hesitate to secure his long-term future with the club.
As is becoming the normality in the modern football era, managers are simply not permanent fixtures. The Alex Fergusons and Arsene Wengers of the world are a dying breed. Years of success no longer ensure a permanent position with a club. Saving used to signifying some wrongdoing on the part of the manager, but it is becoming a mere signal of a club changing directions. Managers are brought in to address specific issues. Once the manager's purpose has been fulfilled, the club moves on to another manager with a skill set suited for guiding the club to achieve the aspirations of the upcoming years.
Luis Enrique has guided Barcelona through transitioning while maintaining its identity. After this season, it could possibly be another qualified coach's responsibility to take the talents of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez and co. to the next step. Barcelona is a mighty powerhouse, and stagnancy does not always keep the cogs of this massive engine moving.
Change can often be good. After this season, it is very likely that Barcelona will replace one world class manager with another world class manager -- either way, the future of the club must be secured.
By Marissa Blackman, columnist at Barcablog.