Luis Enrique announces decision to step down as Barcelona boss
By Mark Crellin
Last Updated: 02/03/17 9:08am
Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique has announced that he will not be in charge at the Nou Camp next season.
Enrique made the shock announcement in the wake of Wednesday night's 6-1 La Liga victory over Sporting Gijon.
The 46-year-old confirmed that he has decided to step down when his contract expires this summer.
"I will not be the coach of Barcelona next season," he said.
"I would like to thank the club for the confidence they have shown in me, it's been three unforgettable years.
"In pre-season I had a meeting with [Barca directors] Albert Soler and Robert Fernandez, in which I told them about the possibility of not renewing my contract.
"They told me there was no hurry to make a decision - but now that moment has arrived.
"It is a difficult, measured and well thought out decision, and I think I have to be loyal to what I think.
"There are three exciting months ahead.
"We are in a difficult situation, especially in one competition, but with the help of everyone and if the stars align, we can turn that game around.
"I will give my full dedication in these three months."
Like his friend and former teammate Pep Guardiola, who stood down in 2012 after four glorious years in charge of Barca, Enrique highlighted the pressure of life in charge at the Nou Camp as a factor in his thinking.
"The reason is the way in which I live this profession," Enrique added. "It means very few hours of rest."
Barca may be up against it in the Champions League but they remain in the La Liga title race and will face Alaves in the Copa Del Rey final on May 27 - meaning Enrique will have a chance to add to his haul of eight trophies as Barca boss in what is likely to be his final match at the helm.
Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said: "We accept Luis Enrique's decision. He has been a great a coach. Now it is time to end his spell in the best possible way.
"Luis Enrique has brought us great success and he can still bring us more. The players are motivated to do it."
Enrique, a former Barcelona player, took charge in May 2014 and led the Catalan side to a remarkable Champions League, La Liga, Copa del Rey treble in 2014/15.
Last season, Enrique added further La Liga and Copa del Rey titles, but Barca came in for heavy criticism after a 4-0 loss in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Paris Saint-Germain last month.
The Barcelona players were told Enrique would be leaving after they had hit six against Gijon.
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic said: "The coach came into the dressing room and told us before the press conference.
"We were all left a bit open-mouthed. We didn't know he was going to announce it today.
"He has all the support of the dressing room. We will do everything we can to do our best in the months to come."
The news will immediately ignite speculation over who will succeed Enrique at the Nou Camp.
Sevilla's former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli is among the early favourites for the role, alongside Athletic Bilbao boss Ernesto Valverde.