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Barcelona hires former player Enrique as coach

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The Canadian Press
5/19/2014 3:24:38 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Barcelona hired Luis Enrique as its new coach on Monday, hoping the former player can help restore the club's recent success following its first season in six years without a major trophy.

Barcelona said on its website that Enrique agreed to a two-year deal, but did not disclose further details. He will replace Argentine coach Gerardo Martino, who stepped down on Saturday immediately after the club failed to defend its Spanish league title.

The 44-year-old Enrique is one of the few players to have had successful careers with both Real Madrid and Barcelona, having left the former in 1996 to join its archrival. He stayed at Barcelona until 2004.

He had been widely expected to be appointed as the club's new coach after stepping down from his position at Celta Vigo last week, and will restore a line of in-house managers most recently continued by Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.

Barcelona also said goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is joining the club from German side Borussia Monchengladbach to replace Victor Valdes, who is leaving on his own accord.

In other moves, Barcelona said it was bringing back forward Gerard Deulofeu from Everton and midfielder Rafina Alcantara from Celta, after both young talents were loaned out last season to acquire playing experience.

The Catalan club said goalkeeper Jose Pinto would not be returning after six-and-a-half seasons as Valdes' backup and starter in the Copa del Rey.

Barcelona also ensured on Monday that star forward Lionel Messi would remain the centerpiece of its squad after finalizing an extension of his contract that will reportedly make the club's all-time leading scorer the world's highest-paid football player.

The 26-year-old Messi will earn a reported $27 million per season with further incentives able to drive the deal up to $34 million per year until the contract ends in 2017-18.

Enrique will be tasked with rekindling the competitive edge that Messi and his teammates lacked at critical moments throughout the season that it started well but finished in its worst form since before Guardiola took over in 2008.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu announced on Saturday following Barcelona's 1-1 draw against new champion Atletico Madrid that a number of players would not be returning. So even more changes are to be expected to renew a team that had stayed at the top of European football for the last half decade with its core made up of Messi and Spanish internationals in Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

After starting his playing career with Sporting Gijon, Enrique played for Madrid for five seasons and helped it win one league title before signing with Barcelona. The forward went on to play eight campaigns for Barcelona, helping the team win two league titles in his first two seasons and becoming the team captain in his last two years before retiring.

As a member of the Spanish national team Enrique played in three World Cups and won the 1992 Olympic gold medal.

Following in Guardiola's footsteps, Enrique returned to coach Barcelona's B-team from 2008-2011 before he spent one troubled season in charge of AC Roma, where he stepped down in 2012 with one year remaining on his contract.

He returned to the Spanish league last season to take over Celta, incorporating former Barcelona B-team charge Rafina. After a difficult start, he guided the modest Celta side to a ninth-place finish in the 20-team league.

Enrique will be presented on Wednesday.

Luis Enrique (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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