Luis Enrique hailed Louis van Gaal as one of Barcelona’s best ever coaches after the veteran Dutchman confirmed he will take a sabbatical from football until the end of this season.
Van Gaal appeared to signal his retirement in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, eight months on from his departure from Manchester United.
However, the 65-year-old subsequently clarified that he is taking time out before deciding on his future later in the year, with there still being “a good chance” he will retire.
Luis Enrique played for Barca during each of Van Gaal’s spells at the helm at Camp Nou, from 1997-2000 and 2002-03.
Although he won two LaLiga titles, the Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup during his first stint in charge, the former Ajax coach’s success in Catalonia is often overshadowed by a famously frosty relationship with the local media and the fact arch rivals Real Madrid won two Champions League crowns despite being bested domestically.
Nevertheless, Luis Enrique is in no doubt that the man who blooded the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes in the first team should be afforded a lofty play in Barca history.
“I was lucky enough to work with him twice and I have a high opinion of him personally because of the relationship we had,” the ex-Roma and Celta Vigo boss told a news conference ahead of Thursday’s Copa del Rey trip to Real Sociedad.
“He’s one of the best coaches we’ve ever had here. I learned a lot from him. He is a powerful character, but a great coach as well — I’d say one of the best I ever worked under.
“When he came to the club he fitted in well with his idea of possession and associative play.
“He’s a very methodical man, very hard working and he had certain rules he was adamant he was going to stand by, whatever interpretations the players had of them.”
Luis Enrique himself has been known to possess a tetchy streak during media briefings so, unsurprisingly, was on Van Gaal’s side over this aspect of his work.
“If I look at back at the two times he was here, there are some good memories and great anecdotes – I mean, his news conferences were legendary,” he added.
“He was an important person in my career, not just in terms of football but on a personal level, too.
“Behind that serious front he was a very sensitive man. I hope he comes to visit us sometime.”
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