Barcelona coach Luis Enrique leaving at season’s end

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 6:26am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 6:26am

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique will leave the Spanish champions at the end of this season.

The coach made the surprise announcement following the team’s 6-1 win over Sporting Gijon in the Spanish league on Wednesday.

“I need to rest,” Luis Enrique told the post-match news conference. “I won’t be the coach of Barcelona next season.

“It’s been three unforgettable years,” the 46-year-old former Spain international added.

The announcement was first made to the players in the locker room after the game at the Camp Nou.

“He told us about his decision,” midfielder Ivan Rakitic said. “We want to finish the season with victories and enjoy what’s left of it.”

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said the coach told him about his intentions a few days ago.

“We accept Luis Enrique’s decision. He has been a great coach. Now we have to finish the season the best possible way,” Bartomeu said. “Luis Enrique has helped us succeed, and he can still help us. The players are motivated to make sure that happens.”

Luis Enrique still has the chance to win three titles with the Catalan club before leaving — the Spanish league, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

Barcelona is in a tight race for the league title with Real Madrid and reached the Copa final against Alaves. But it must reverse a 4-0 first-leg loss to Paris Saint-Germain to stay alive in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

The humiliating loss in the Round of 16 to PSG last month left the coach under pressure from fans and local media. He was jeered by the crowd at the Camp Nou in a league game shortly after the defeat in Paris.

A former defensive midfielder at Barcelona, Luis Enrique replaced Gerard Martino ahead of the 2014-15 season. He immediately led the club to the treble in the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League.

He also helped the club win the league and the Copa in the 2015-16 season.

His other titles with Barcelona include the 2015 UEFA Super Cup and the 2016 Spanish Super Cup, as well as the 2015 Club World Cup.