Football: Enrique meltdown follows Barca's loss to PSG

Victory salutes by (from left) Paris Saint-Germain's Blaise Matuidi, Thomas Meunier, Layvin Kurzawa and Edinson Cavani after the 4-0 victory against Barcelona.
Victory salutes by (from left) Paris Saint-Germain's Blaise Matuidi, Thomas Meunier, Layvin Kurzawa and Edinson Cavani after the 4-0 victory against Barcelona. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Barca facing Champions League ignominy as coach gets flak after 'shipwreck' performance

BARCELONA • Barcelona manager Luis Enrique faced a volley of criticism yesterday after what he called a "disastrous" 4-0 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain left the Spanish football champions on the brink of their earliest Champions League exit in a decade.

He reportedly had to be restrained by three people after he confronted reporter Jordi Grau from Catalan station TV3 for questioning his abilities after the last-16 first-leg match on Tuesday, while his tactics were slammed by his own midfielder Sergio Busquets.

Barcelona sports daily Sport's front cover said "This is not Barca," while Madrid-based AS' headline ran the words "Total Disaster".

A former Real Madrid foe came back to haunt Barca as Angel di Maria scored twice, while further goals from Julian Draxler and Edison Cavani handed PSG the glorious European night they had craved since a takeover by Qatar Sports Investments six years ago.

The joint heaviest defeat in Enrique's three seasons in charge means they could miss out on the quarter-finals for the first time since losing on away goals to Liverpool in the last 16 in 2006-07.

"It was a disastrous night for us in which we were clearly inferior. I accept responsibility, but I would also like the same respect and personal treatment in the interviews when we win," Enrique said in a fiery interview with TV3.

SEEKING MUTUAL RESPECT

It was a disastrous night for us in which we were clearly inferior. I accept responsibility, but I would also like the same respect and personal treatment in the interviews when we win.

LUIS ENRIQUE, Barcelona manager, after his side were routed by PSG.

His future at the Camp Nou beyond the current campaign is already in doubt as his contract expires at the end of the season.

Barcelona also trail Real in the race for the Primera Liga title.

Busquets' reaction in praising Enrique's counterpart Unai Emery for the tactical set-up that caught the Catalan side cold was telling.

"It wasn't an attitude problem, but a football one. They pressed more and were better tactically. They had a plan and carried it out as they wanted," Busquets said.

The midfielder also appeared to criticise the team's preparation for the game, adding: "We expected something else but that's what can happen. We hope to be able to turn things around at the Nou Camp but I can't lie, it's very difficult."

Sport described Barca as a "shipwreck without a coach".

Enrique's preference for Portuguese international Andre Gomes instead of Ivan Rakitic in midfield has been a particular bugbear for the Spanish press.

Gomes missed a huge chance to level with the score at 1-0 midway through the first half.

Yet, humiliation in Paris laid bare broader failings in Barca's season on and off the field, from the president down to the players.

Gomes was the most expensive of six summer recruits costing over €120 million (S$180.5 million) designed to add greater depth and more youth to the squad.

Yet, none of them - including Lucas Digne and Paco Alcacer - has made a significant impression, with Barca still reliant on an ageing core of Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and Busquets alongside the front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

The most immediate order of business for president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board is to tie down Messi, with the five-time World Player of the Year just over a year away from becoming a free agent.

Yet, worryingly for Barca's future, Messi and Suarez also turn 30 this year.

The punishment dished out to Enrique was further evidenced by the praise lavished on Emery.

Emery guided Sevilla to Europa League glory in each of the past three seasons and once again proved his worth on the European stage despite having managed just one win over Barca in 23 previous attempts with Sevilla and Valencia.

"The Sheikh (PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi) signed him for this," said Madrid sports daily Marca.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Enrique meltdown follows PSG defeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe