MADRID, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Luis Enrique, a man who played for both Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, is in charge of leading Spain to glory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Two things are certain: he won't back down from any hard decision or go out of his way to avoid controversy.
The photo of Enrique bleeding after his nose was caught by Mauro Tassotti's flying elbow is one of the enduring images of the 1994 World Cup, and one which sums up a man who won't give up easily.
Two years after that incident, Enrique swapped the Santiago Bernabeu for the Camp Nou, saying he hadn't felt appreciated by Real Madrid. Some Madrid fans will argue that has affected some of his team selections as Spain coach. While that is open to debate, it is certain that it showed he isn't scared of taking difficult decisions or controversy.
He became a legend at Barcelona with a competitive streak to add to his talent. Enrique has shown that competitiveness time and again, by taking up surfing, long-distance cycling, marathon running and even participating in ironman competitions.
This is a man who is able to grit his teeth and dig deep when he needs to.
It was no surprise when he moved into coaching, first with Barca's B team, then with a more difficult spell at Roma and Celta Vigo, whom he led to ninth in La Liga.
The return to Barcelona was always going to happen, and it did with two league titles, three Copas del Rey and a Champions League in his three seasons with Barca, before stepping down at the end of his contract.
After Julen Lopetegui's sacking as Spain coach in 2018 and Fernando Hierro's reluctant cameo in that year's World Cup in Russia, Enrique was a logical choice to take over the national team and he started with a 2-1 win against England at Wembley.
That's not to say he hasn't ruffled a few feathers, especially among the pro-Real Madrid press and fans, who accuse him of overlooking Real Madrid players to pick those from other clubs.
While Lucas Vazquez and Nacho Fernandez certainly have a case for having played more, a look at most Real Madrid sides over the past three years will show that not many players eligible to play for Spain actually played for Real Madrid. Meanwhile, his decision to leave Sergio Ramos out of his squad coincided with Ramos suffering physical problems and a belief that the player was becoming bigger than the team.
Maybe tougher to explain are his reasons for not picking Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas and Manchester United keeper David de Gea despite their good form.
His decisions have led to some 'difficult' press conferences, with pointed questions by Madrid-based journalists about his team selection, but Enrique gives the impression that he actually enjoys the verbal combat almost as much as he enjoyed a 50-50 challenge in his playing days.
He highlighted his personality again, stunning everyone when he stepped down as Spain coach in 2019 to help look after his nine-year-old daughter Xana, who sadly died of bone cancer in August of that year.
The incident would prove to be the end of his relationship with his long-time assistant Robert Moreno. Moreno had stepped in as interim coach for the national side and although it was always understood that Enrique would return, Moreno felt he had earned the right to lead Spain in the European Championship after having completed Spain's qualification for the finals.
Enrique didn't feel the same. It ended their friendship and in November 2019, Enrique returned to his former post. Once again it showed him to be a man of determination, but one who also realizes there is more to life than football.
With a side rejuvenated by players such as Pedri, Gavi and goalkeeper Unai Simon, Spain reached the semifinals of the Euros, only losing on penalties to the eventual winners Italy.
Enrique tends to favor a 4-3-3 playing style, with full backs pushing forward to help in attack. Players such as Sergio Busquets, Rodri, Koke and Pedri all help Spain keep possession, while the front three tend to have freedom to swap positions and also press high up the field.
Expect Spain to mix their passing in with some of the more direct play that Gavi and Pedri can also offer, and if Nico Williams makes the squad, some explosive wing-play off the bench.
There are doubts about what Enrique will do after the World Cup and there is speculation that he won't continue. If he doesn't, don't expect him to rush back into management as he is a man perfectly able of treading his own path. It would be no surprise in January to see him dust down his racing cycle and get back onto the road. ■