August 4, 2021

Luis Enrique has never been very popular

Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand / TT

LONDON. There is a difference in how the league captains of the semi-finals are perceived.

Everyone loves Roberto Mancini. Kasper Hjulmand led Denmark from the abyss. Gareth Southgate is the progressive leader the whole of England needs.

And Luis Enrique?

Nä. It is as if he himself has chosen not to be very popular.

There will only be a party when you actually win something big.

Luis Enrique felt compelled to explain it to his daughter. She had seen her father coach FC Barcelona to the Champions League title in Berlin, and was enchanted by all the celebrations that followed.

There was euphoria and ecstasy, there were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, there were ceremonies and parades and it was such incredible happiness that surrounded them.

When the victory summer was then over and it was time to start playing everyday football, the five-year-old did not understand at first that there was a difference between victory and victory. Every time it was time to play football – to win a match – she looked at her father with expectant eyes:

– Dad, will there be a party again?

No, Luis Enrique repeated. There will only be a party when you actually win something big. It’s only when you touch people in a way that can get an entire city on its feet, an entire nation in dance.

The daughter listened, but was not big enough to really understand the nuances of the profits.

She would never be allowed to either.

Photo: Michael Probst / TT

Four years after that Champions League summer, Xana went into cancer, just nine years old.

Luis Enrique has never told you about it in detail. He has chosen to keep the grief within the narrow family sphere, rather than turn to the public for consideration and sympathy.

It can be said that his will has been respected.

So a couple of years after his family tragedy, there is something striking about how completely unsentimental Luis Enrique is treated. Although he has gone through some of the worst things a human being can ever suffer, there is actually not much warmth towards him in the Spanish football river.

Maybe that’s the way it should be. In any case, that’s how Luis Enrique himself wants it.

He wants to be judged by the same yardstick as everyone else, criticized on the same grounds, and that is of course a perfectly reasonable starting point.

The question has rather been whether we even get there – or whether the treatment of him has in fact remained a little extra stingy and crunchy.

Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand / TT

Luis Enrique has never been a media favorite, never made himself particularly popular with opinion leaders.

Appreciated for his success in mainly Barcelona, ​​absolutely, but not really loved. A little too Asturian for Catalonia, a little too Catalan for Madrid. Always more of a fighter than a lyre player, and for a long time best known for getting almost cracked against Italy in the 1994 World Cup.

Demanding, strong-willed and extremely stubborn. Fixed in efforts and sacrifices – such a guy who relaxes with Ironman competitions and crosses the Sahara desert with extra weights on his back – and confrontational to the character.

When he became coach, he took on Francesco Totti in Rome, challenging both Xavi and Leo Messi in Barcelona. When he returned to work as the league captain after the timeout around his daughter’s death, he immediately chose to dismiss the coach who had acted for him, his own old assistant. Luis Enrique considered himself disloyal.

Tender, fearless and downright unsentimental. Before this European Championship tournament, he poked Sergio Ramos, did not take out a single Real Madrid player in the squad.

In any case, he is … accepted

Many may claim that they do not care much about all the opinions out there, that they do not see the job as a popularity contest – but Luis Enrique gives the impression of both meaning and living it. He entered the European Championships with few friends by his side, but with an extreme loyalty within the national team squad he prioritized to build and shape according to his own convictions.

It is usually said that a football team is often a reflection of its coach, and to a fairly large extent this is not the case in Spain.

The tip is uncharacteristically blunt, okay, but the whole is both high-intensity, aggressive and resilient.

Appreciated? A little like that.

Even before the tournament started, Luis Enrique’s team was on the minus side – something that was then only strengthened by the cross against Sweden and Poland – and it has required extremely dramatic resolutions in both eighths and quarters to get the people on the trailer.

Suddenly they are just a few steps from the dent. Luis Enrique himself is still not exalted, but he is in any case … accepted, tolerated.

Popular? Cherished? Even loved? Not yet. If it is to be possible at all, two more victories are required.

There will only be a party when you actually win something big.

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