Luis Enrique criticised for PSG thrashing
Coach Unai Emery praised for tactical set-up that caught the Catalans cold
Barcelona — Barcelona coach Luis Enrique floundered in the firing line on Wednesday after what he called a "disastrous" 4-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain left the Spanish champions on the brink of their earliest Champions League exit in a decade.
Enrique confronted a television reporter working for Catalan station TV3 after the match, while Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets criticised his tactics.
Barcelona sports daily Sport’s front cover read, "this is not Barca", while Madrid-based AS’s headline ran, "total disaster". A former Real Madrid foe came back to haunt Barca as Angel di Maria scored twice, while further goals from Julian Draxler and Edison Cavani handed PSG the glorious European night they have craved since Qatar Sports Investments’ takeover six years ago.
The joint heaviest defeat in Enrique’s three seasons in charge means they face missing out on the quarterfinals for the first time since losing to Liverpool in the last 16 in 2006-07.
"It was a disastrous night for us in which we were clearly inferior," Enrique said.
"I accept responsibility, but I would also like the same respect and personal treatment in the interviews when we win," Enrique said in a fiery interview with TV3.
Enrique’s future at the Camp Nou beyond the current campaign was already in doubt as his contract expires at the end of the season. Barcelona also trail Real Madrid in the race for the Spanish title.
And Busquets’s reaction in praising Enrique’s counterpart Unai Emery for the tactical set-up that caught the Catalans cold was telling.
"It wasn’t an attitude problem, but a football one. They pressed more and were better tactically. They had a plan and carried it out as they wanted." Sport described Barca as a "shipwreck without a coach".
"Barca fell in Paris without grandeur and without excuses," continued Sport’s editorial.
"It was a tumultuous fall … more than an accident, it manifested itself as an aggravation of many problems … that had already been shown up throughout the season."
Enrique’s preference for Portuguese international Andre Gomes in midfield has been a particular bugbear for the media. Gomes missed a chance to level with the score 1-0 midway through the first half.
Humiliation in Paris laid bare broader failings in Barca’s season on and off the field from the president down to the players.
Gomes was the most expensive of six summer recruits costing more than €120m designed to add greater depth and more youth to the squad. Yet, none of them have made a significant impression with Barca still reliant on an ageing core of Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and Busquets alongside the start front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Meanwhile, suitable replacements for the departed Dani Alves and Xavi Hernandez have yet to be found.
The most immediate order of business for president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board is to tie down Messi with the five-time world player of the year just more than a year away from becoming a free agent.
The punishment dished out to Enrique was only further reinforced by the praise lavished on Emery.
"The sheikh signed him for this," said Madrid sports daily Marca.