Luis Enrique to quit Barcelona – will Koeman take over?

Everton boss is in the frame as Camp Nou coach says he needs a 'rest' after Champions League humiliation

(Image credit: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Getty)

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has announced he is leaving the club at the end of the season because he needs a "rest".

It is a decision that was expected in Spain given the calamity of last month's 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of Barcelona's Champions League last 16 tie.

That level of humiliation is unacceptable to a club of Barcelona's standing and although they have a slim chance of clawing back the deficit in next week's second leg at the Camp Nou (and thus avoiding their earliest Champions League elimination in a decade), the 46-year-old Enrique has decided to leave at the end of his three-year deal without seeking an extension.

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Speaking after his side has crushed Sporting Gijon 6-1, Enrique said: "It is a difficult, measured and well thought-out decision and I think I have to be loyal to what I think. I would like to thank the club for the confidence they have shown in me. It's been three unforgettable years."

Enrique's reign got off to a wonderful start as Barcelona won the treble in his first season, including the Champions League title, and he followed that in 2015-16 with the domestic double. But Barcelona measure themselves by their success in Europe's showpiece competition and they've underachieved in the last two seasons.

The pressure has clearly taken its toll on Enrique as he explained in announcing his decision to step down. "It's about how I live with my profession, with a never-ending quest for solutions and to improve my team," he said. "That means I have very little time to rest, very few hours to disconnect. I think it will be good for me at the end of the season, because I need to rest. That's the principle motive."

One of Enrique's predecessors, Pep Guardiola, gave his reaction to the news shortly after watching his Manchester City side thrash Huddersfield 5-1 in their FA Cup reply. "I am so sad because we will miss the perfect trainer for Barcelona, from his personality and his character," said Guardiola, who played with Enrique at Barcelona in the 1990s.

"His three years he played unbelievable football, with unbelievable players. I am like a fan with a membership of Barcelona. I can say thank you for all he has done in his three years at my club."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu also thanked Enrique for bringing the club "great success", but his focus now will be on finding a suitable replacement for next season. According to BBC Sport, who spoke to a reporter from Radio Catalunya, the two early front-runners are Michael Laudrup and Everton boss Ronald Koeman, both former players who "know the philosophy of the club".

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