Two seasons into Luis Enrique’s tenure, can we say that he has successfully managed to break out of Pep Guardiola’s shadow? Let’s compare the record of both managers, entering their third season as FC Barcelona manager.
Before I go any further, there is an important note that needs to be made. The Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup should not, and will not, be counted in this article as being legitimate trophies. There is no pedigree to winning any of these competitions, as they do not prove a side’s greatness. They are mere appetisers to the season ahead, or worse, distractions to the season at hand.
I will put this very simply: two seasons into Pep’s tenure we had four trophies; a treble in the 2008/2009 season and La Liga the following season. Two seasons into Lucho’s tenure left us with five trophies: a treble in the 2014/2015 season and a double this past season. This means that at this stage, history would suggest that Lucho has been more successful. But has he really?
Many would contest Guardiola’s era to be greater, at least up until this point, due to execution – in other words, Pep played better football. What was unique about Pep’s team wasn’t only that it won many trophies – It was the manner in which these trophies were won, both in result and in performance standard. It was the fear which Guardiola’s Barҫa instilled into every side in world football, something that has become harder to do today, as the teams in the highest echelon of world football (Barҫa, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich) each considers itself to be the best. There was no questioning who the best side was in Pep’s days. It was unanimous. Guardiola gained plaudits from world football, earning the respect of icons such as Sir Alex Ferguson.
It would seem that this is where Lucho cannot compete. For whatever reason, there has been a perception that what Lucho has achieved has been easy. Too much credit has been given to the “MSN” trio, with the perception being that those three players make trophies inevitable – this when, not too long ago, few believed these players would be able to successfully play together in the first place. Lucho’s way of winning is also “less pretty” than Pep’s was. His Barҫa is not afraid to sit back if the situation deems it necessary. It is also more direct and combative in midfield, with the addition of Ivan Rakitić.
However, the final nail in the coffin is Lucho’s cold and guarded personality, compared to Pep’s inspiring, passionate, and emotional charm. Lucho evidently is not a fan of the media, and this makes him less marketable and his often vague answers to their questions make him more misunderstood. Don’t believe me? Has there ever been a memorably passionate moment Lucho has given us since he has been manager? On the other hand, who can forget Pep’s epic “José is the f***ing master” rant or the time he sobbed after winning the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup?
We all want to meet Pep. We all want to be as passionate about anything the way Pep is passionate about football. We even want to dress like Pep. Whether Lucho’s shadow will one day grow bigger than that of Pep’s is still to be seen. Lucho is now entering his third season as Barҫa manager, and this is a crucial juncture. This was the season in which Pep introduced the idea of the “false nine” in Messi, arguably his greatest innovation. If Lucho is indeed trying to let his shadow grow bigger than that of Pep’s, then this is the season to introduce the world to something different and new.