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Soccer-Barcelona choose club legend Luis Enrique to lead club forward

Reuters

By Tim Hanlon

BARCELONA, May 19 (Reuters) - Barcelona have gone back to basics with the appointment of Nou Camp legend Luis Enrique as they look to bring stability and trophies back to the club after a stormy season with problems on and off the field.

Luis Enrique arrives after an impressive campaign with Celta Vigo where they not only achieved their objective of avoiding relegation, but finished in the top half of the table while winning many admirers for their passing game.

The former Barca player, who hung up his boots 10 years ago, followed in the footsteps of team mate Pep Guardiola by taking over the club's B team in 2008. In a three-year stint, he led them to promotion to the Spanish second division and then their highest ever position of third before standing down.

Barca this time have gone for a coach who is well aware of the pressures and strains of day-to-day life at the club following the resignation of Gerardo Martino on Saturday.

It has not always been easy for Luis Enrique, who struggled as coach of Roma where he tried with limited success to introduce the short passing style of Barcelona to the Italian capital.

Roma had hoped that he would have the same impact that Guardiola had made with Barcelona after stepping up from their youth team but they parted company after just one season with the team finishing seventh in Serie A.

Luis Enrique's Italian adventure did not go to plan but he bounced back well with Celta. The results he produced earned him the chance to coach at the Nou Camp, where he will receive a hero's welcome from the fans who still remember him for his playing exploits.

An attacking midfielder, the man affectionately known as 'Lucho' rose to prominence because of his fighting spirit.

He began his career as a player with his hometown team Sporting Gijon before moving to Real Madrid where he won the league in 1995.

Then the following season he failed to reach a deal to renew his contract and unexpectedly jumped ship, moving to arch rivals Barcelona.

Luis Enrique became a key player for the Catalan side, helping them to win two league titles at the end of the 1990s. He was famed for his animosity towards his former club and added salt to Real's wounds by scoring several times during heated 'Clasico' showdowns.

MELTING POT

He will resume the hostilities as coach of Barca, where a lot of rebuilding is needed and the signing of keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is only the start.

The club has neglected the need for reinforcements in recent seasons, especially in defence where for most of this campaign Carles Puyol has been injured.

Puyol has now left the club and Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte is one of the favourites to come in.

Martino quit after Barca failed to win the league and he had the sympathy of many fans who realised that he had walked into a melting pot of problems when he took charge just 10 months ago after Tito Vilanova stepped down due to ill health.

As well as the lack of reinforcements, the team's one-touch football had become predictable and his attempts to change it led to immediate criticism. Prolific striker Lionel Messi and marquee signing Neymar suffered injuries and the rest of the team failed to reach the standards they had met in previous years.

On top of that Martino also had to deal with the president who appointed him, Sandro Rosell, standing down in January having tried to pull the wool over the fans eyes over the real cost of the Neymar transfer.

Initially stated as 57.1 million euros, the board later admitted it was nearer to 100 million euros.

Taking charge of a club with sky high expectations will be no easy task for Luis Enrique, but knowing the club as well as he does should hold him in good stead. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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