Barcelona (AFP) – First came the “mourning” then the opportunity for revenge, claimed vindicated outgoing Barcelona coach Luis Enrique after overseeing the greatest comeback in Champions League history by thrashing Paris Saint Germain 6-1.
Despite Barca’s galaxy of stars, it was the boss who was first in the firing line when the Catalans were torn apart 4-0 in the first leg in Paris three weeks ago.
“Firstly we had to go through the mourning,” said Enrique.
“It was hard, especially on one person. I don’t read it, but I am aware of it all.”
In the aftermath, Enrique confirmed the long held suspicion that he won’t remain as coach next season after three highly successful years in charge.
The timing of the decision — made public in his post-match press conference following another 6-1 win just seven days previously against Sporting Gijon — took most by surprise.
However, in removing the tension around his future, Enrique changed the narrative and gave his team the freedom from which they made the seemingly impossible, possible.
“This victory is dedicated especially to the Barca fans that had faith even after one day in which the team was outplayed as was the case in Paris,” added Enrique.
“This team has shown they know how to win because they have won a lot, but, when we have lost, we have also shown we know how to lose, especially me.”
Enrique also played a vital role in recognising his team’s shortcomings and changing his formation.
Barcelona have played 4-3-3 since the days of Johan Cruyff’s reign in the eighties.
Yet, in the past four games, a change to 3-4-3 has resulted in a crucial La Liga win at Atletico Madrid and thrashings of Sporting, Celta Vigo and PSG by a combined score of 17-2.
“This system gives us more options, more situations that pin back the opponents, more players that can participate,” Enrique continued.
“They are resources we have, but what makes systems good are the players and their desire to keep on winning.”
Ironically, midfielder turned right-back Sergi Roberto had been one of those sacrificed for Enrique’s new plan.
Yet, Roberto still proved to be the hero as he came off the bench to prod home Neymar’s cross in the 95th minute to spark wild scenes of celebration amongst the near 100,000 fans at the Camp Nou.
Enrique himself raced from the bench onto the field. However, he didn’t quite allow himself a joyful tear of celebration.
“I’m not one to get emotional,” he added. “But I enjoyed it as much as those who cried.”
In stepping down last week, Enrique cited the relentless rigours of the Barca job for his need for a rest.
Never have those demands arguably been so evident than the fact Enrique ended his post-match press conference by highlighting the need for Barca to raise the energy to win at Deportivo la Coruna on Sunday to keep themselves top of La Liga.
“The problem is this all starts again tomorrow and a return to training.
“I would have liked to rest, to let the players celebrate with their families and loved ones, who suffered most what the team went through, but we have to get up tomorrow and calm ourselves down.”
Europe beware, though, having won a treble and a double in his first two seasons, Enrique wants to win it all again before departing in June.
“I imagine among our rivals our qualification hasn’t gone down well.
“We have never been cautious and we want the three titles.”
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