BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Former Barcelona player Luis Enrique promised a new start for the Catalan club after signing a two-year contract to become coach on Wednesday.
Luis Enrique signed the deal with club president Josep Bartomeu two days after it was announced by the club. That was two days after coach Gerardo Martino stepped down when Barcelona finished its first season without a major trophy in six years.
"We believe that this is the beginning of a new Barcelona, a Barcelona that will excite again," Luis Enrique said. "When I left Barca the club told me that it was a 'see you later' and they have kept their word. I can't wait to hear the hymn of Barcelona in the Camp Nou."
The 44-year-old Luis Enrique won two league titles as a Barcelona player from 1996-2004 and coached its B team from 2008-11. He also coached at Roma, and led Celta Vigo to a respectable ninth-place finish this season after installing an attractive passing attack on the Barcelona model.
Luis Enrique's hiring continues a recent tradition of in-house coaches recently represented in Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova. That string was broken when Martino was hastily brought in last year after Vilanova resigned to focus on his battle with throat cancer that he eventually lost last month.
Luis Enrique is the club's eighth former captain to coach the club, joining such greats as Laszlo Kubala, Cesar Rodriguez, Johan Cruyff and Guardiola.
Although Luis Enrique was never in the same class as them, he will be only the second former captain to coach the club's B side and first team. Guardiola is the other.
Luis Enrique asked not to be compared with Guardiola, and said his best quality as a coach was being a leader, not as an expert in tactics, despite his insider knowledge of Barcelona's ball-control approach.
"I don't rely too heavily on tactical knowhow, instead I focus on managing a group, managing egos," he said. "There is work that goes on during the week, work based on knowing each player. I try to be everything a leader is."