Our Love-Hate relationship with Lucho

I love Luis Enrique. Love is a strong word, but I am sure this is it. How can I not? The man won a treble his first season and followed that up with a double last season. He’s successfully put together possibly the most lethal attack in the history of the game, but that does not rank amongst Lucho’s greatest achievements to date. 

After Real Madrid won their beloved ‘La Decima’ (10th European Cup) in 2014, there was a lot of talk about how the Barça era had come to an end. This 10th European Cup was to be the beginning of the rise of ‘Los Blancos’. I must admit. Seeing two Madrid sides in the UEFA Champions League Final did make me wonder whether our Xavi-Messi-Iniesta era of greatness had reached its expiration. Every match played at Camp Nou after the Pep era had a real twisted sense of nostalgia in trying to relive a time that had clearly passed. There had been no real tactical advancements to our play since Pep left. We were like an old man trying to cling onto his youth by wearing sweater he wore in college. Lucho’s greatest achievement has been dispelling this notion and putting it on its head. Lucho has given us closure on this era and allowed us to turn a new chapter. And like a butterfly born from its cocoon, Lucho’s Barça has been flying at extraordinary heights. But exactly how beautiful is this butterfly?

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We all love winning trophies, and we are definitely in love with Luis Enrique. But just how strong is this love? Is it anything like our first love? They always say your first love is the love of your life. It’s important we acknowledge just who that first love was. Pep Guardiola.

I get it. Comparing the two “isn’t fair”. However, there is nothing wrong in comparing the success of past blaugrana managers, just as comparisons between Pep and Frank Rijkaard were made, back in Pep’s early Barça days. As culés, we also have to understand that comparisons between Pep and Lucho will always exist because they are both just too similar. They both employ different iterations of the same philosophy. How can one not compare them?

They both will forever be etched into the history books of our club as possibly two of the greatest managers ever to our club. Now that we have established both their greatness and given them enough ego stroking, we can get on with the real purpose of this article.

Luis Enrique has won five trophies in two seasons for us. We have no right to complain about anything. That being said, there is a feeling brewing amongst a segment of traditionalist culés who feel that every spent by Lucho at the helm sees us move farther away from our values. Why is this so? Before delving into this topic, one must understand what our club stands for, and this is found in the mantra of our club, ‘Més que un club’, translated in English to “More than a club”. What does this mean? It means our club has to do with more than just winning. It’s about more than trophies. Neither of these is the end goal. In the words of Thierry Henry:

Barça is a culture, a religion, something more, it is an incredible club.

I must confess. There have been moments in the last 24 months where I’ve changed TV channels during matches; once the match has been virtually won. Why?

Because I’m just not as entertained as I once was.

Lucho’s Barça can do many things during games. Not only can we pass teams to death now, but we can shoot from distance, hit long balls, be dangerous from spot kicks and corners- we are doing more than we ever have. But I would be lying to you if I said I enjoyed watching this team as much as I did its previous iterations. Gone are the days of a Camp Nou crowd screaming ‘olé!’ after a dizzying flurry of passes. This team just isn’t as entertaining. That’s the truth.

A lack of entertainment is by no means reason to suggest that this team is any bit inferior to Pep’s side. Many will bow to that team being the greatest Barça side of all time. Fair enough, but there is nothing the class of 11′ can do that this class of 16′ can’t. That being said, if Barça really is about being more than a club, then would it not be fair to suggest that some of these values are being eroded?

This is not just about playing style, although playing style does have a role to play. “It’s not just about winning, it’s how you win”. Johan Cruyff’s virtues. Could we honestly say our current side puts the idea of style at the forefront of what it considers important? Probably not. Lucho’s priorities probably sound something like “win first, then worry about how you win later”. And there is nothing wrong with this either, as it is how 99.99% of clubs are wired. However, those clubs aren’t us. As a Barça supporter, if we are winning 5-0 and you still have the urge to change the channel, something has gone wrong. In the 21st century, Barça supporters have probably become the most demanding on planet Earth. This is because matches are more than being just about winning. Being a culé is about more than being a supporter.

When you are a culé, it says something about who you are. Being a culé is about being someone who admires art, who admires poetry- who admires the beautiful things in life. It’s about family, culture, tradition. These values have been entrenched into our subconsciouses- especially those who follow this club on a daily basis. Someone like you.

This value system has manifested itself into how this club is run. The policy of the importance of our youth- La Masia. This is a symbol of caring for all those who choose to associate themselves with our club and putting their needs above anyone and everyone- the socios. Each and every canterano is born with the right to have exclusive access to our club before any outsiders can. This belief system trickles down to the way we do business and transfers. Academy players are considered first before any signings are made.

The theme of family is the most important value of our ‘Mes que un club’ motto. Family is the reason we do all that we do. This is first seen in the carnival-like atmosphere of Camp Nou. Families descend from all corners of the globe to take their loved ones for a night of fun. For a night of magic. And this lays the platform for everything that happens on the field. This is where it all comes together. All these themes and belief systems intercept to create something that is truly beautiful. This is in our style of play. A masterpiece.

Leaving Camp Nou, one should feel that they have just left a theater of some sort, perhaps an opera, or a movie. The expression one should have when the game is over should be “What a beautiful performance”, and not “What a victory”. After all, we are more than a club- more than a victory. And this is where the paradox of many culé emotions lie.

We all love winning. But there is something that just does not feel right about the way which Barça currently wins. I love our MSN trio as much as any culé, but a part of me feels I have access to a cheat code that no one else can afford. There is just something that goes against our values when we can spend hundreds of millions of euros on two players, in Neymar and Luis Suárez. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather we have these players on our squad than face the prospect of having to go up against them. But does this not go against our own traditions of looking inwards before looking outwards? And does paying such large sums not make us exactly like the people we are trying not to be like?

There has been the feeling that Lucho prefers looking to the market before looking to what is already in the club. The signing of André Gomes is a prime example of this. Though Gomes is a gifted footballer, one has to question the effort made by Luis Enrique to look inwards, before bringing in a player for €55 million. What about someone like Wilfrid Kaptoum? This really makes culés wonder as to how much Lucho values the intangible belief systems associated with being a culé.

There also seems to be a change in approach to how youth players are integrated into the first team. It seems Lucho prefers loaning his players to having them earn minutes from the bench. There is nothing wrong with loaning players to afford them game time to develop their game, but this is not how things have always been done. Previously, players such as Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, and more recently Thiago Alcántara were given the chance to show their worth to the club before decisions on their futures are made. This is not to suggest that any of the prospects in our academy are anywhere near the level of the players just mentioned. What is important here though is that these players were given the opportunity to prove themselves first- It showed that our club paid respect firstly to our tradition of giving its own family a chance to succeed, before any outsider could be given a chance. Also, one cannot truly know how much potential a player has in the academy until this player is given a chance to succeed in the surroundings he has grown up in his entire career, through coaches who have followed him his entire career, instead of farming him to a foreign country where his profile is not known only to be minimally used by a manager who just wants to make up numbers in his squad and is not interested in developing this player further. This is why players go on multiple loans. I cringe to think how the players mentioned above would have been developed were Lucho in charge and put them on loan. There is a good chance they would not have become the players they are today.

Ever since the day Thiago Alcántara was allowed to leave, I have had a deep resentment for the Rosell-Bartomeu administration. No amount of titles won could ever make up for losing such a unique talent who has “the Barça way” of playing in his veins. Due to this, I am completely incapable of watching a full 90 minutes of any Bayern Munich game. These feelings are shared by many culés, and this confirms and proves something about us all.

For most passionate culés, such as yourself, it is not so much about winning. It is about the manner the win was achieved in and whom the win was achieved with. Titles can seem cheap when they are won by outsiders who do not know what it means to wear the blaugrana jersey. Titles are more valuable when they are won by our own family members, who understand the clubs traditions inside out. And this is the root cause of our love-hate relationship with Luis Enrique.

Of course winning matters. We want to be the best. Although this is true, I can confidently assert that there is not a single culé comfortable with seeing our side defend for large chunks of any game. Nor does any culé derive any satisfaction from our team being physical in midfield and to be sacrificing beauty for pragmatism. It’s not who we are and goes against our desire for something greater than a victory- for art. It was an uncomfortable sight seeing us win 5-0 recently against Sporting Gijón, as it was a performance universally described as being a bad one. Go to any other side in world football and ask any of their supporters if they would ever consider a 5-0 victory as being a bad performance and you will be laughed out the room. Because to them, the result is what matters. And if the result is positive, let alone being 5-0 away from home, then that is considered an amazing performance. Not in Camp Nou. Not for us.

That result embodies our true feelings about Luis Enrique. We love him for the titles has brought us, but hate him for moving us farther away from our ‘Mes que un club‘ mantra. How many €100 million signings at the expense of La Masia graduates will it take for our mantra to be completely eroded? How far will our style of play move away from art? For a vast majority of Barça supporters who follow the club when it is convenient (the people who are most probably not reading this article right now) and who climb on the bandwagon once we are in a final and who’s satisfaction purely derives in being able to exclaim to their peers “My team won”- how we win, is not important. Sadly this represents an overwhelming majority of the supporters of any club the stature of FC Barcelona, and the chorus that erupts from these victories is loud enough to deafen the cries of real culés that plead for the preserving of artistic beauty. These same “supporters” will be nowhere to be found when the wins dry up. In the end, you, my friend, who is reading this right now, will be left to pick up the pieces and suffer in defeat and humiliation- and you will do so gladly because this is more than a club. Because you understand the virtues of family. You understand our traditions. You understand the importance of being there when times are tough. The question is, does Lucho?

 

 

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  • SonicJaneStooge

    we’ll that was a poor read. changing the channel more than in previous years? very weird considering Liga is a lot stronger & more competitive than in Pep years (especially his 1st 2 seasons)

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      Lol, I even changed the channel more in pep’s days with those boring 8 nil thumping of la liga sides

      • SonicJaneStooge

        I agree. Lucho can look at Pep & say my 2 Liga titles were harder to win than any of your 3 cause every team in La Liga (except Valencia) is a lot stronger than back then. Atletico, Celta, Athletic, Sevilla, Villarreal etc… are all so much stronger now

  • Kneowell Anyanwu

    Is it really Lucho’s fault that our current reserve teams aren’t producing players good enough for our first team? Busquet, Pedro, thiago all did fit in seamlessly like new buys when they were introduced to the first team by pep, can we say the same of a samper, Gambau, Munir, sandro, barta (the last 3 of which Lucho gave more than enough time to prove their worth but couldn’t live up to expectations). Infact it is these traditional culers that screamed for the sale of Munir, sandro, barta and even sergi roberto, thankfully lucho saw something more in sergi and kept him with the squad. If there’s anyone to blame it should be the board, and not the coach, lucho is responsible for the first team, the board is responsible for the other teams it should be the responsibility of the board to ensure they preserve what the club stands for by employing capable hands to instill our legacy and values in the reserve team and also ensure they produce players good enough to usurp anyone in the first team just like xavi, iniesta and messi did, remember the way busquet displaced an in form yaya toure? Can you pick anyone from the reserve who is capable of displacing anyone on the first 11? While pep tried to feed the first team from the reserve let’s not forget that a good number of the efforts didn’t quite work out e.g cuenca, Dos Santos brothers, nolito (a much regretted sale as it would appear), soriano, fontas, tello (to mention the few I can remember). Even the great pep spent a fortune on importing players such as henry, ibra, chygrynski, fabregas (returnees) ,alexis sanchez, villa, hleb, song, adriano, dani alvez…(again, the ones I can remember) he didn’t rely entirely on the reserve even when the crop of players we had then in the reserve were arguably the best considering they won the segunda back to back. Could we have asked lucho to replace a want away valdez with a jordi masip? We had Munir when even the most traditional culers cried for a fourth striker even when lucho deliberately didn’t sign any in his first season just to give a Munir and sandro some opportunity. While lucho prefers to loan our sub standard crop of boys out he has also shown he’s committed to bringing them back if they show promise (rafinha, Denis suarez, talks are underway for bellerin) this is in an effort to stay true to the tradition. The same traditional culers agitated for a high profile CB in laporte which would have cost the club around the region of £50m even when they had Marc Barta (thankfully Lucho was able to steal a certain umtiti at half the price), these same set of culers won’t stop asking for Marco veratti… Why place all these demands if they truly value the more than just a club slogan? I think we can’t have it both ways, I won’t pretend I don’t like the trophies and condemn lucho in the process because he didn’t promote a katoum or a samper (they haven’t even shone enough in the B team yet, as the team is still struggling as has been the case for over 3 seasons now, and that’s not lucho’s fault either). I honestly think we can’t have it both ways, we can’t seek to incorporate these guys and at the same time yearn for trophies, something has to give, it’s either we are willing to sacrifice trophies for the development of these guys in our first team, or allow the reserve team coaches and the board to worry about that while we chase our trophies (until ofcourse the reserve team starts producing at full capacity again). Lucho has shown a fair share of faith in a good number of them by roberto, rafinha, dennis suarez, and maybe samper (who clearly needs more time). He was also patient enough with Munir and Sandro (I’m sure he would have kept Munir if not for team excesses cos he truly loved Munir). He’s also keeping an eye on. Halilovic who he hasn’t entirely let go and who we all expect back in a season or 2 worst case. He has his own mandate as a coach to protect too, you can’t have the best players in the world in messi, neymar and suarez and not churn out trophies, that’s abominable. And oh, lest we forget, Neymar wasn’t acquired by lucho, but a certain traditional culers screamed for the addition of Neymar until the board finally fulfilled that wish.

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      If you want the tradition back, scream at the board, not at the first team coach who’s only doing the job he was hired to do. Pep loved barca ( still does) but he had to leave when the board wasn’t keeping to their own end of the bargain, we may see lucho leave under the same circumstance too (although the board we have now trusts the first team crew to handle their job and don’t dabble much into their affairs). When pep was coach, we had as high as 9 la masia graduates featuring in the first team (pedro,messi, fab, iniesta, xavi, busquet, pique, puyol, valdez, maybe a thiago on the bench) was truly a spectacular stuff and thanks to pep himself who groomed some of these boys himself when he was the B team manager. Lucho didn’t have that luxury of coming straight from the B team but then I look at his la masia graduates numbers in his first season (messi, iniesta, xavi, busquet, Munir, sergi roberto, rafinha, pique, alba) that’s 9 graduates who regularly featured in his team if I leave out sandro, masip and the rest who didn’t feature regularly. Now in his third season I take a look at the numbers again (messi, iniesta, rafinha, dennis suarez, busquet, pique, alba, roberto) I still count 8 graduates who also feature quite regularly in today’s team, xavi is the only thing that changed the numbers from 2 seasons ago. How about this for a lost tradition? If fingers must be pointed, I think it should be pointed mostly on the board,I think lucho’s numbers vis a vis pep’s in terms of la masia graduates who are regular in the first team vindicates him. For me it’s a love love relationship cos I kinda see where the the real cause of the problem lucho faces in terms of keeping the tradition

    • Ayanfe Dada

      Very well spoken bro like a true culé

  • Lodo

    The read seems like issues with the board being taken out on Lucho -who has actually done a great job. The change in playing style is a necessary evolution, teams had us figured out. Without Lucho’s changes we’d be seriously struggling in each match with predictable tactics. This Barça is just as entertaining even up to extra time. I love Barça’s games so much that I watch full game replays. Can’t imagine a true Barça fan switching channels during a game.
    On the issue of La Masia; even in a family run business if your children can’t deliver results and competitors are taking over your markets you will have to hire talent from outside. Once we have talent that are promising to match or outshine our current crop of players then I believe the opportunities will come for them.

    • Kneowell Anyanwu

      Point blank! Its just this simple

  • Ayanfe Dada

    The author of this article is right to a very large extent. However, talking about giving youth players chances to succeed, Munir was given multiple upon multiple chances, 2 seasons in a row. Sandro too was given his own fair share of chances to prove his worth also. But we all know how the story eventually ended. Sadro is now in Malaga and Munir in Valencia. The reason was simple, they weren’t ready for the first team. I definitely agree with Lucho on that.

    • Grega Kavčič

      Munir was fantastic in preseason again. And since he was a complete backup it was a bit pointless to buy Paco who has to be implementet in the family and in the game. Still OK if he has the patience, but if he will be left out it will be Munir and paco cash out of the window.

      • Eivind Niclasen

        Not sure I follow you there. The problem with the fourth striker, aka backup for one of the MSN members, was the vast difference in quality when either Munir or Sandro replaced either Neymar or Suarez. We are still waiting for Paco to have a breakthrough in front of goal, but I am convinced he will come good. He is young, hungry and talented. Suarez also struggled in his first months, remember?
        One of the most important Things Luis Enrique corrected once he took over, was to sign two good goalkeepers. That´s two more than we had at the end of the 2013/14 campaign.

        • Grega Kavčič

          Yes I remember Suarez, but that is a different ballgame even if he cost much more. Suarez and his price tag gave him minutes… a lot of them and he settled, Paco will not get these minutes. Maybe he could even surpass Suarez numbers for a month or two but we will never know. Suarez is a monster, best striker that could be bought and I was always saying this to dissapointed barca fans he cannot go to Madrid or we will be in deep shit.

          Ter Stegen was monitored for a long time it was a complete done deal way in advance. LE was not completely sure of MATS so he bought Bravo. It turned out to be good or maybe not so much as MATS would have gotten much more playing time and right now he is here not bravo under LE. The keeper thing was always going to be dealt with as we had none. BTW Masip in the 1st team is weird to me also.

  • Grega Kavčič

    Lucho buyin like he is faceing a tranfer ban. Acting like a rich lunatic with no plan just shooting ducks (players). A lot of cash beeing spent and no returns, becouse he does not even have the minutes available to see if they work out.

    And then when he finaly lets a new buy get some minutes he throws him in a completely bench 11 and they loose or draw the game. Completely pointless, he looses points and cannot see how the player peforms becouse the whole team on the field is in dissaray. Titles were won with a very fixed starting eleven, now all of a sudden cannot play 2 games in 10 days? WTF

    The team was a family, now so many new faces were introduced that it dificult for all of them to even get to know each other. Then there is not enough minutes for the new buys and they get pissed off and their workrate drops off.

    Zidane and Lucho are both completely clueless. Tata was regarded as shit but if he had an in form Suarez to pick his season would turn out quite different. Unzue is much more important in the team right now than LE who has a inferiority complex and is butthurt every time the team runs itself.

    I said here I am more than happy with him becouse after Anoeta 2015 the team picked themselves and he had no say. For 16/17 he is seen marauding again and I hope the “old boys” set him in his place again and prevent some of his bullshit.

    • Albert

      Just coach Barca by yourself you ungrateful punk. Even Iniesta admits that Lucho is the best coach he worked under

      • Grega Kavčič

        The ungrateful punk is lucho when he moans and groans when he extends his contract. 🙂 He is always in a bad mood, pissed off on every simple press conference when he should be happy to pocket 10x what he deserves. He is uneployable and he knows it, when he leaves barca no team with options would hire him, that’s why he stayed. His ego is hurting badly becouse he knows the team is not run by him, just so much as the team let’s him.

        He wins the triplet is lauded by every coach coach and journo alive but walks arround like he has a monkey in his ass. 🙂 He was put in his place by the team after anoeta and they played the best football barca had seen and will see in years.

        I actually don’t care if he stays or leaves so long as the team has the will to win enough like when they came together after Anoeta. He probably destroyed the dynamic with so many sour faces in the dressing room becouse of not getting minutes or letting their friends leave.

        I explained why active players comments are worthless and if you cannot get that trough your thick head then god help you.

  • Ams

    This has to be one of the worst articles. Please dont generalize. What you feel is not what every cule feels. I love watching this barca as much as i loved watching Pep’s barca and as much as I loved watching Riks/Tito/Martino’s barca. When Iniesta says that Lucho is the best coach he has played under…you gotto stop and listen. When we were found wanted during Pep’s era and the following era, I am sure you would have written article about what things should change, about evolution, about unpredictability, about adding new dimensions to our game. Now, when you have that you want to go back to Pep’s era. You are one of those who will never be satisfied with what you have.

    • Isaac Ofosu-Agyei

      I couldn’t agree more. Say what you want about Lucho, he has great instincts. Its fun to watch this team just as Pep’s Barca. To be fair, he
      has messed up during some crucial times like twice in a row failing to play Ney & La pulga at Anoeta against Sociedad when we desperately needed the points or recently starting Don Andres on the bench at Balaidos against Celta, but he has generally gotten it
      right for the most part given that Tata basically had the same team bar some tweaks here and there. I also think Carlos Insue do not get the credit he deserves. What a great
      football mind he is.

  • Isaac Ofosu-Agyei

    Say what you want about Lucho, he has great instincts. To be fair, he has messed up during some crucial times, he has generally gotten it right most of the time. I also credit Carlos Insue a lot. What a great football mind he is.