Is Lucho Still Living in Pep’s Shadow?

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.

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  • Viva Barca

    One of the stupidest articles, I have ever read.

    • Pepe

      Not necessarily. It’s a fact, that Pep’s barca was the etalon in terms of being the best. The way they suffocated even the best was something else. Individual quality met great strategy. It was something that you rarely come across. It’s either great individuals carrying the team or amazing team chemistry. Pep’s team had both and it was a perfect 50-50 ratio.

  • Anson

    Pep’s BARCA brought something new which the world never saw, for quite sometime. Which resulted in one of the best periods of dominance in recent football history. It took the world 4 years to find a solution, & at that point Pep for all his tactical know how wanted a break from football because he was mentally drained. Has Sir Fergie every down that ?
    Comparing Pep to Lucho is not fair, as teams today know what BARCA are going to do. Lucho came at a time when Barca had 4 coaches in 4 years, galvanized the team and took us to the treble. Mourinho’s Madrid, Pep’s Bayern boast players of similar skill set yet weren’t able to achieve a treble.
    Pep not doubt made the world stand up and recognize that Barca need to be feared, but after he left Lucho made sure that was not forgotten. Having quality players help, but managing them & fitting them into a effective system where their individual skills are highlighted, the manager needs to be applauded.

  • Pius Kamau

    C’mon why compare these 2 individuals?..they’re different in personality and slightly so in their tactical approaches.

  • Grega Kavčič

    This site is so in to LE it makes me cringe every second post. LE is AWFULL and thanks to god the team runs itself most of the time. After his recent f**up he will be quiet for a while. Everytime he decides he should try to be coach he messes up.

    Bought a shedload of players and throws them on the field like donkeys. They are f**** covers, play them one by one or max. 3-4. It is a much easyer game on the whole team if we lead 2-3 goals by half time. Then start resting players in the second half.

    It is not the same if you send a new player to play with almost all the regular starters or you send him in with 3/4 reserves. Nothing can be learned from a situation like this anyway so why bother. And then the whole MSN + others get frustrated when they come in and try to turn the game arround and fail.

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      Yeah, exactly the team runs itself…which team? Pep’s team or lucho’s team. If my memory serves me right we only have 5 players inherited from pep in this team. Lucho has made nothing less than 15 additions and replacements in the team down to goalkeepers, reversed the false 9 role which messi got stuck in, removed the element of predictability from our play and has even won more trophies than pep in their first two seasons and yet you call him awful?
      Yes he may have rotated too heavily to warrant a loss (which by the way is excusable considering that all our superstars just returned from international duty) well, he just had to remind people like you who thinks the team runs on autopilot what happens when the real pilot presses a wrong button or makes the wrong call.
      may I also remind that a full strength pep side lost to numencia and hercules (same pedigree as Alaves from second division).
      You have sworn not to give Lucho any credit, maybe you’ll be the first to vote him out if given the chance, but before u do so, ask yourself, who is fit and available to replace him

  • AY

    There is no question that Pep is an icon, a great disrupter, a guru we all thrilled at being able to witness his remarkable upending of the football world. (Not to mention his style and passion that were no small contributions.) I will never forget their dismantling of Man U where you could literally see Wayne Rooney and Alex just give up, know they were being schooled. Then there was the Manita in Madrid – oh god how I enjoyed Mourinho’s intro to tick taka!

    That said and I am sure I will have haters on this point – Pep’s game was pure and great but became predictable and defendable in some ways. It turned out to be brittle. Neither he nor Barca could sustain it.

    What I love about Enrique is that he embraces the best of Pep’s method and throws in wild cards so Barca are now in many ways even more creative and unpredictable. More adaptable so we can confound our opponents.

    And if anyone thinks that making MSN work is a simple and natural thing, and managing the transition from our guru Xavi is somehow easy, well… they are just not dealing with reality. This is serious and subtle man management.

    So while I will always follow whatever Pep does with great passion and interest – how good was the Manchester derby – he’s going to help transform the BPL, I am a real fan of Enrique. He takes chances. He mixes it up, but he gets results and he has yielded some very serious high level performances from a wide range of players.

    I am really enjoying the constant surprise and creativity of our team now. Sorry, but in my world, losing to a newly promoted team as a result of some serious messing with our own line-up is ok and moreover, is a good thing for the whole league.

  • Steven Rogers

    Lucho has a dominant front 3, Pep had a dominant midfield 3… Busquets, Xavi, and Iniesta dominated the midfield just as MSN dominate the attack. Of course the coaches structure their teams differently to take advantage of those areas of dominance.

  • Jide Mafolabomi

    I don’t think Lucho can compare to Pep. He’s a good guy and obviously a dedicated and hardworking individual, with his own ideas about the game. But he’s more like Mourinho without the histronics, in my view.

    Tactically all Pep teams play the with the same idea. He’s done it at Barca, did it at Bayern, and we are seeing the idea again at City. It’s basically a game of passing triangles with defined passing outlets, probing and seeking openings, very horizontal play. He also invented that false 9 concept, which we have even seen Arsene Wenger copying! I put Pep up with Cryuff (obviously), Capello, and any of the game’s great thinking coaches. Their imprint on the game will live long after them.

    Lucho has also coached three teams in two top-flight leagues, and he is playing more with a modern style – very direct, breakneck pace, 1v1s and so on. He is more of a workman-type coach, like Mourinho, Ancelotti, and so on.

    So both groups are successful, win titles and all, but one category thinks and invents, while the other category focuses on execution. Lucho is clearly in the latter category.

  • Amir Johan

    Pep clearly instructed his players to roll around on the ground after tackles. They also had this arrogance where they really thought “their way” was the only way, eventhough they still resorted to ‘real football’ (more direct) when trailing with 5 minutes to go 😀

    Lucho’s team is much much more humble IMO. Especially after Xavi’s departure. All they care about is winning football. Nothing else.

    I love Pep. His promotion of Masia talents and positional play is really to be admired. But, he’s in the past now. Lucho has constructed a monster of a footballing team, and we should respect that.

  • Anon

    Utterly disrespectful towards the stellar work Lucho has done.

    I personally never thought we would be this dominant soon after the Pep era. Lucho deserves full plaudits for having made that possible. He isn’t the greatest tactical innovator, but he did bring a tinge of unpredictability to the tactics after they had become stale for 2-3 seasons. He has surely played his role in reinvigorating Messi (who has become even better than before) and he commands respect from his players (including the superstars).

    Personally I don’t care for his interactions with the media. And he is passionate in his own way (anyone remembers his reaction to Filipe Luis’s horror tackle on Leo during a match in 2016?).

    Pep had Xavi at his prime to implement his tactical ideas. Lucho didn’t have the prime Xavi, but he has ensured that this wouldn’t be felt in terms of results. Seamlessly replacing one of the greatest players in the club history isn’t a joke you know (full credits to Rakitic as well). As it has been pointed here, Pep had a stellar midfield 3 and moulded his team around them, Lucho has a stellar front 3 and he has moulded his team around them. Nothing wrong in making the best use of your resources. Also he hasn’t turned away from the Barca way of playing (pressing and possession), which is the most important thing for purist fans like me.

    We should stop comparing these 2 club legends (as players and managers) and be grateful for the joy they have given us. We surely will have our own bias towards one of them, but doesn’t mean the other should be discredited.

    PS: Pep had told Lucho will do better than him at Barca.

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      I am with you a hundred and ten percent

    • Sridhar Likki

      Excellent writeup.. Both take the team forward in different directions but the ultimate goal is same.