Luis Enrique (Getty Images)
BARCELONA, May 21: Barcelona’s new coach Luis Enrique promised a fresh start for the fallen Spanish ex-champions at his official presentation Wednesday, vowing “attractive, effective” football to make fans smile again.
“This is a very special day full of hope,” said the club’s 44-year-old former goalscorer and B-team coach, who was named on Monday to replace Gerardo Martino after a trophyless season.
“It is the day we begin to build a new Barca, a Barca that can have hope, a Barca that gets all the results we are looking for,” said Enrique, who left Celta Vigo to rejoin his old club.
“I am hoping for a very attractive and very effective team. That is why I am here,” said Enrique, vowing to focus on tough training sessions and teamwork as well as chasing new signings.
“I think I am capable. I think I can bring positive things to the players and to the club and that is my challenge.”
Barcelona narrowly missed out on the league title in a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on May 17. That sealed the Catalan team’s first season without a major trophy in six years.
“I hope they put pressure on me every day to compete for titles,” said Enrique.
The club has already announced the signing of a new goalkeeper, 22-year-old German international Marc-Andre Ter Stegen from Borussia Monchengladbach, and the return of Rafinha Alcantara and Gerard Delofeu from spells on loan.
Enrique promised more new arrivals to try to make Barca’s passing game more unpredictable.
“We will reinforce the squad, in every area if possible,” he said.
The just-ended season saw the departures of injured veteran defender and captain Carles Puyol and two goalkeepers, Victor Valdes and Jose Manuel Pinto. Enrique said others could follow.
But Argentine star striker Lionel Messi signed a new contract despite a disappointing season and Enrique said on Wednesday that the goalscorer was “necessary and indispensible”.
“Messi’s performance this season has not been as incredible as it was in some previous ones,” Enrique said, but added that he aimed to help him “find his best form”.
He also praised Messi’s countryman and midfield teammate Javier Mascherano, hinting that he could make a good captain to replace Puyol.
He would not be drawn however on the future of another star of Barca’s recent years, Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez.
Enrique’s two-year contract as manager raised excitement after the disappointment over Martino, who was hired just two weeks before the latest campaign began following the late Tito Vilanova’s sudden resignation due to cancer.
Enrique himself scored 109 goals in 300 appearances for Barcelona in eight years after joining from rivals Real Madrid in 1996, and also had great success in three seasons as Barca B coach.
He succeeded Pep Guardiola as Barca B coach in 2008 and led them back to the second tier of Spanish football for the first time in 11 years in his second season, with a record-breaking points haul.
He went to manage Roma in 2011 but left after one season when the Italian side failed to qualify for any European competition.
He joined Celta Vigo in June 2013 and coached them to ninth in La Liga this season, their highest finish in eight years.