Luis Enrique says he feels “a little relieved” after confirming his intention to leave Barcelona, though he insisted the players have not lost focus.
The 46-year-old informed the squad and then the media that he will not extend his contract at Camp Nou, which expires at the end of the season, following Barca’s 6-1 win over Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.
Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic have both admitted to being surprised at the coach’s announcement, which has come at a key stage of the campaign, with Barca having usurped Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga and facing a Champions League last-16 second leg against Paris Saint-Germain next week.
Although Luis Enrique feels more at ease after having made the announcement, he has denied the suggestion that his players could lose focus.
“I’ve not lost my strength in these four days,” he told a media conference ahead of Saturday’s league match with Celta Vigo at Camp Nou. “In a way, I’m a little relieved.
“We’re focused as always. I was clear enough after the Sporting game. I’m not going to get into it now.
“We have to keep on with the idea of getting more and more points and that the others don’t do the same. We want to add as many points as possible but we must be prepared to solve any situations that arise.
“You have to take into account all the teams who still have a chance mathematically of winning LaLiga.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 3, 2017
Luis Enrique has said in the past that he would not move to the Premier League because his wife does not want to live in England, but he suggested that it could now be possible.
“What I do know is that my wife wouldn’t be able to stand two or three years of me at home,” he replied when asked about England’s top flight. “I could handle the cold perfectly!”
Talk has turned towards the potential successors, with Athletic Bilbao’s Ernesto Valverde and Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli among the favourites to take over for next season, but Luis Enrique is not interested in getting involved in the speculation.
“I don’t want to assess the possible candidates,” he said. “I’ve never done that and I’ll only think about finishing the season well over the next three months.”
Barca are unbeaten in the league since a 4-3 loss to Celta in the reverse fixture in October – a run of 18 matches – and they have won all three games since their 4-0 thrashing against PSG.
Luis Enrique expects a tough test against Eduardo Berizzo’s side but denied that the game will serve as useful preparation for the visit of the Ligue 1 champions on Wednesday.
“It’ll be difficult to have control against a team who press all over the pitch,” he said. “They’re one of the most difficult teams to face in LaLiga. They have quality and it’ll definitely be tough.
“Celta’s defence is very different to PSG’s. There are no parallels.”