Trophyless Barca appoint new coach Enrique
AS Roma's Spanish coach Luis Enrique attends the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma v Lazio at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on March 4, 2012 - by Gabriel Bouys
Enrique, 44, scored 109 goals in 300 appearances for the Catalan team in eight years after joining from rivals Real Madrid in 1996, and also had great success in three seasons as Barca B coach.
Now Barca's board is betting on him bringing the 2012-2013 title holders back to glory after they ended this season without a major trophy for the first time in six years, forcing Martino to quit after just one season in charge.
As part of the overhaul, Barcelona also confirmed on Monday that 22-year-old German international Marc-Andre Ter Stegen will join them from Borussia Monchengladbach next season, replacing Spain's Victor Valdes as first-choice goalkeeper.
Enrique will sign a two-year deal as new first team coach and be officially presented on Wednesday, the club said in a statement on Monday evening.
His pedigree as an old Barcelona hero raised excitement after the disappointment over Martino, who was hired just two weeks before the latest campaign began following the late Tito Vilanova's sudden resignation due to cancer.
As a player, Enrique "soon became a firm favourite with the fans for his competitive attitude. In addition, his versatility, knack of scoring big goals and technical ability made him a key member of the team", Barcelona said in its statement.
In his first three seasons he won two league titles, two Spanish cups, a European Cup Winners Cup and a European Super Cup.
Enrique succeeded Pep Guardiola as Barca B coach in 2008 and led them back to the second tier of Spanish football for the first time in 11 years in his second season, with a record-breaking points haul.
He went to manage Roma in 2011 but left after one season when the Italian side failed to qualify for any European competition.
He joined Celta Vigo in June 2013 and coached them to ninth in La Liga this season, their highest finish in eight years.
- Attack-minded -
Barcelona narrowly missed out on winning La Liga on Saturday in a 1-1 home draw to Atletico Madrid, who took the title for the first time in 18 years in a dramatic decider.
With a new goalkeeper and two players returning from spells on loan, Rafinha Alcantara and Gerard Delofeu, the team now seeks to restore hope to the Camp Nou under the attack-minded Enrique.
Goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto will join Valdes in leaving Barcelona after six-and-a-half seasons with the club, while Stegen "is one of the first additions at Barca for the 2014/15 season," the club said in a statement Monday.
"The board of directors would like to publicly thank the professionalism and dedication shown by Jose Manuel Pinto during his years at the club," said sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta after announcing the 38-year-old would not be offered a new contract.
Ter Stegen has long been indicated as the man to replace Valdes since the Spanish international announced his intention not to renew his contract 18 months ago.
Capped four times by Germany, Ter Stegen has become an undisputed starter in the Monchengladbach goal over the past three seasons making 108 appearances in the Bundesliga in total.
His finest moment on the international stage came in saving a penalty from his new Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi in a friendly against Argentina in August 2012.
However, he conceded a horror own goal as an experimental German side lost 4-3 to the United States in June last year and hasn't been included in Joachim Loew's provisional 30-man squad for next month's World Cup.
The club said Alcantara, who worked with Enrique while on loan at Celta Vigo this season, and Delofeu who has been on loan at Everton, will also return to the Barca first team squad next season.