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Daniel Levy’s Imaginary (Managerial) Shortlist: Luis Enrique

Lucho Libre?

Morocco v Spain: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Subject: Let us help you! (Manager search)

Hello Dan!

We haven’t heard from you. Is everything okay? I understand that you’re a busy guy with your massive responsibilities leading one of the world’s richest football clubs. Which is why you should consider reading your email a little more closely, because we’ve got some ideas about who you might want to consider to hire to replace Antonio Conte.

A lot’s been said about the club’s DNA, but what if this time you shifted your attention from Italy to Spain? Luis Enrique plays some super fun football, and honestly the only reason he’s unemployed now is because of an upset loss in an international tournament that’s tricky to win. Nothing in life’s a guarantee, but this guy? Seems like you could and should take a good look.

Yours etc.,

Dustin George-Miller
Cartilage Free Captain

The Basics

Name: Luis Enrique
Age: 52
Team: Unattached (most recently Spain)
Nationality: Spanish
Cumulative ELO rating: 1862

The Specifics


Champions League (Barcelona, 2014-15); Club World Cup (Barcelona, 2015-16); La Liga (Barcelona, 2014-15, 2015-16) UEFA Supercup (Barcelona, 2015-16), Copa Del Rey (2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17); Spanish Super Cup (Barcelona, 2016-17)

Luis Enrique is a quintessential Barcelona guy and one of Barca’s most successful modern managers. A product of Sporting Gijon’s academy, “Lucho” had a 15 year professional career at Gijon, Real Madrid, and, his longest stop, Barca where he scored 73 goals in 207 league appearances as a utility midfielder/forward. As so many Barcelona managers have done, he started his coaching career leading Barca B before short stints at Roma and Celta Vigo. Barcelona appointed Luis Enrique as successor to Tata Martino in 2014, and over the next 3 seasons led Barca to their biggest trophy haul since Pep Guardiola. He left Barca in 2017 and eventually was appointed Spain manager, taking them to the semifinals of EURO 2020 and through this winter’s World Cup, which saw Spain eliminated in the Round of 16. In the wake of Spain’s upset loss to Morocco, Luis Enrique resigned his position and remains unemployed.


When describing Luis Enrique’s tactics, it’s perhaps best to start with the man’s own words. Here he is speaking about Spain’s national team in the lead-up to this winter’s World Cup.

“There is just one person in the country who gets to decide all this, which is exciting and motivating. Our idea is never going to change. We will attack, want the ball, play in their half, defend near halfway, press high, take lots of risks. If we have the bravery to stay faithful to that idea, I will consider that we have done our best.”

Setting aside the irony of Spain getting bounced from the World Cup in the Round of 16, Luis Enrique’s statement is a pretty good description of the kind of football he likes to employ at his football clubs. Lucho wants the ball. He wants it badly, and doesn’t want to give it back. Enrique’s teams are all about possession: getting the ball, keeping the ball, passing it quickly and vertically, and putting balls into the box as often as possible.

Luis Enrique loves to attack in a 4-3-3 formation, though it’s worth noting he experimented with a 3-4-3 in his last season at Barca. In Lucho sides, there’s a TON of passing triangles and movements to create space to receive passes. The width can be created by the fullbacks, with one pushing forward and the other remaining home to defend against counters, but his teams frequently utilize wide midfielders to occupy defenders and create overloads in the attacking third.

Luis Enrique’s sides are known for possession play and constant attack. There’s generally little patient ball circulation and probing to break down bunkered defenses — Lucho wants the ball in the box and to the forwards as often as possible, and achieves this through short passing and movement. Luis Enrique’s sides are known for having 60% possession (or more) in matches, and when they do lose the ball they press high to force mistakes and turnovers. His players are encouraged to take risks whenever it makes sense to do so.

It all sounds a little tiki-taka, doesn’t it? Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Just way, way more direct.

The emphasis on attack can (and does) leave them open at the back, however, and there’s a potential weakness to sides that can low block and counter their way to success. And as we saw with Spain in the World Cup, all the possession in the world can’t do you much good if you can’t use it to break down a well-organized defense. (Morrocco,,,,,hello)

It also begs the question — if Lucho sides want to pass their way to victory, how exactly is he going to do that at Tottenham with a squad full of water-carrying central mids and a defense leakier than a tenement shower? The tactics utilized by Luis Enrique at Spain and Barcelona are fun as hell and can be devastatingly effective, but moving from a Conte team to a Luis Enrique team would produce some pretty significant tactical whiplash, and it’s not clear at all that the pieces are in place at Spurs for Lucho to be successful in the Premier League, at least not initially. But boy, if he can magic Spurs into Barca-lite... wow.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Luis Enrique is excellent at generating exciting, offensive football. It’s his whole thing — he wants his teams to play with freedom, dynamically, and with flair. A Tottenham side molded in Lucho’s image would be incredibly fun to watch, most weeks. That said, it’s not clear that he’s ever had to take on a project quite like Tottenham Hotspur before, and one wonders how well his possession-based tactics would translate to this current group of Spurs players without significant turnover in the offseason. The emphasis on attack could leave Spurs hilariously and calamitously open at the back as well. But them’s the risks, right?

Another risk — Luis Enrique has never managed outside of Spain, and the Premier League is a very, very different beast than La Liga. The last time Spurs tried something like this was when they appointed Juande Ramos aaaaaaaaaaaand.... That doesn’t make Lucho the wrong choice for Spurs, just an extremely interesting one that would require a total reshaping of the way the team plays. After all, Pep Guardiola famously thrived in the Premier League, though Pep has the added benefit of a virtually unlimited transfer budget while Spurs... does not have that.

Luis Enrique is also something of an authoritarian, and he has shown little hesitation to squash any resistance to implementing his style of play. So yes, there’s something of a “cult leader” aspect to him as well, though he lacks something of the cuddly teddy-bear style of a Mauricio Pochettino. There would be no “cabals” in a Luis Enrique side, or if there were they’d be quashed pretty quickly. I have no sense on how well he would (or would not) work with a Director of Football and would defer to those who know better.

All that said, Lionel Messi once said that Luis Enrique was, along with Pep Guardiola, one of the two best managers he’s ever played under. He’s incredibly well respected in the field and considered an innovator in the realm of football tactics. It’s a high risk high reward appointment.

The Verdict

Likeliness of being hired

There have been reports that Luis Enrique would be interested in the job. That said, I’m unclear if he has a complete picture of the amount of work it might take to turn Conte’s Spurs into Lucho’s Spurs, or if he would bolt at the first better job opportunity that pops up. It’s definitely a risk, as is appointing a continental possession manager who’s never managed in England before. Real Madrid is also likely going to be looking for a new manager, and one would think he’d be one of their top targets as well along with Mauricio Pochettino, and likely a better fit for what Lucho wants to do.

Grade if Hired: A

Would Luis Enrique at Tottenham work? Hell if I know. He’s certainly an outstanding tactician and a proven manager, playing very, very fun football. He also doesn’t seem like a jackass, or at least not in the same way that Mourinho and Conte were jackasses. That feels significant. There are some risks associated with appointing Lucho, particularly in how he’d deal with routinely bunkered Premier League defenses and with getting the right kinds of players in to implement his tactics. All that said, I’d certainly be interested in giving it a try.