Football

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique faces captaincy decision

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Luis Enrique faces some tough captaincy decisions
Luis Enrique faces some tough captaincy decisions.

New Barcelona coach, Luis Enrique, faces a stern test during his first season in charge of the Catalan giants, and not only on the basis that there appears to be wholesale personnel changes at the club, but the fact that he must appoint a team leader to fill the boots of the departed Carles Puyol that can lead the team successfully into a new era.

The former Spanish international, Enrique, called time on his distinguished playing career 10 years ago after more than 400 appearances, for at first Real Madrid, and then bitter rivals Barcelona.

Puyol success

His departure from Barcelona after eight successful years, which saw him win eight trophies with the club, paved the way for a period of unprecedented success under the leadership of Carles Puyol, who took over the captaincy reigns from Enrique.

Puyol joined Barcelona as an 18-year old way back in 1996, and made his first team debut in 1999.

By the time the 26-year old Puyol took over the at the captaincy at the end of the 2003/04 season, he was the rock in the heart of the Barcelona defence and courted by most of the world's top clubs.

His success was instantaneous as he guided his team to the La Liga title in his first season and followed that up with another League title, the Spanish Super Cup and the UEFA Champions League, the following season.

In fact Puyol's success as captain of Barcelona is unprecedented.

During a 10-year spell as leader of the Catalan club, he won six League titles, two Spanish Cups, six Spanish Super Cups, three UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA World Club Cups, an incredible run of success that seems impossible to match.

- Plenty of personnel changes expected at Barca
- Toni Kroos on the radar
- Defensive frailties
- Suarez to join? 

Puyol has finally called time on his career, and the critical decision that faces Enrique, is which of his squad can fill the huge leadership void left by the magnificent defender.

Puyol's deputies for much of this time, Victor Valdes and Xavi, are also departing the club, leaving no obvious successors within the squad that are proven leaders.

Puyol, one of the greatest defenders

Captaincy candidates

Enrique will have a few candidates in mind when the players report for preseason training, however the final decision remains anybodies guess.

Iniesta

Andres Iniesta, like Puyol, has only ever known one club after joining Barcelona as a 17-year old in 2001, and at 30-years old he could get the nod if Enrique knows the play-maker is committed to remaining at the club for the rest of his career.

Messi

Lionel Messi is another who joined the club at the beginning of his career, at just 13-years old to be exact.

He certainly has control and more than a say in the dressing-room, however just because you are one of the greatest players the world has ever seen, it doesn't make you the greatest leader the world has ever seen.

The Argentine doesn't need any extra pressure and is there to one thing for the club, and that is to score goals.

How often have we seen the demise in form of a player after they have been given the captaincy responsibilities, and not just in football.

Messi is not a natural leader and to strengthen my case, he is also a forward. The best captains are better placed to fulfil the role from deeper in the park, like Puyol did from defence, as it gives one a far superior overview on proceedings.

Mascherano

Compatriot Javier Mascherano has recently extended his contract, and word is, since he joined from Liverpool in 2010, he has become a very well respected figure within the dressing-room and has a personality that showcases leadership qualities.

Pique

At 27-years old, central defender Gerard Pique seems the perfect option. Pique joined the Barcelona ranks as a 10-year old in 1997, and other than spending three years away from the club with Manchester United, he is Barcelona through and through.

He understands the ethos at the club and what is required to bring success back after ending last season without any silverware.

Add to mix that he played alongside Puyol for both club and country, and therefore would have been best placed to learn what it takes to captain a club with the history and expectation of Barcelona.

The only point that does count against Pique is the fact that he is injury prone, however if Enrique takes the view that his injuries have simply been a bad run of luck, then perhaps the defender will have the edge.

Topics:
La Liga
Barcelona
Lionel Messi
Gerard Pique
Football
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