Interviews

The big interview: Luis Enrique – "I’d like to manage in England at some point – the fans are faithful"

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You were an important player at the Bernabeu, so why did you move from Real Madrid to Barcelona? How difficult was the change?
Juan Alcocer, via Twitter
It wasn’t, it was easy. I signed a five-year contract with Madrid and I played for five years. I honoured my contract, I didn’t break it. I had offers from Italy and Barça; none from England. I always wanted to play in England but never had the chance to do it. There were no problems for me in the Camp Nou dressing room. I knew the players from the national team. I felt welcomed after 10 minutes.

I had offers from Italy and Barça. None from England. I always wanted to play in England but never had the chance to do it

How good was Ronaldo in his one Camp Nou season? Did he enjoy a night out even then? Did you get into any scrapes?
Rob Bostock, Bristol
I’d seen him on television at PSV and thought ‘wow’. Then he came to Barcelona. He’s the most spectacular player I’ve ever seen. He did things I’d never seen before. We’re now used to seeing Messi dribble past six players, but not then. He was strong, a beast – but a kid, as well. He was typically Brazilian, doing the samba in the dressing room. Him and Giovanni would make music with a waste paper bin. They danced.

I love that atmosphere, the group feeling that Brazilians have. I like to have music in the dressing room of the teams I manage. Football is a party not a prison, but I accept that while some players need music, others need concentration. Ronaldinho loved the music too. In fact, Rivaldo was the only Brazilian who didn’t like music, the only one. A great player, though. With Ronaldo, he’d listen to Brazilian music in the day and have a lot of fun. As for the nights…

How much did it help that Bobby Robson played you as an attacker in your first season at Barcelona? What was Bobby like, as a coach?
Ed Shelton, County Durham
There was Robson the trainer and Robson the man. He worked with Mourinho. The first time Robson walked into the dressing room, he looked at me and Pizzi, then turned to Mourinho and said: ‘Who are they?' We were internationals! After that I had a great relationship with him. He was a kind person. You could get close to him, he had huge experience and knew how players felt. He always played me, as a full-back, midfielder or forward. I didn’t mind. We lost the league because we didn’t have Ronaldo or Giovanni at the end, but we won the cup and the Super Cup. It was difficult at Barcelona because Cruyff had left and the fans didn’t want him to go. We won one game 6-0 and the crowd still whistled at us. How can you win 6-0 and get whistled?

Enrique, Mourinho and Guardiola. Dream Team indeed

What were your impressions of Jose Mourinho when he was coach under Robson and Louis van Gaal? Did you think he’d make it as a top-level coach?
Jordi Baldoma, Reus
Never. Never! Not even he thought that. He obviously knew about football and spoke well, but he wasn’t the Special One yet. Robson went but Mourinho stayed. He had a good relationship with [Louis] Van Gaal and Mourinho was very clear with us. I liked him.

I’ll never forget your goal against Borussia Dortmund in the 1997 European Super Cup. You won the ball from a defensive corner and sprinted up the pitch to score a left-foot volley. Was that your best goal?
Adria Balaguer, Badalona
I don’t think so, but it was a nice goal. I dribbled past one and then chipped the ball over the keeper. One of my favourites was against Arsenal at Wembley. I also scored a goal at Old Trafford, a penalty in the 3-3. I only scored two penalties in my career. My wife was pregnant at the time; she saw me pick up the ball on television and I gave her a big shock. I love English stadiums, the fans are faithful. I saw Newcastle fans applauding after a relegation. If that happened in Spain they would be waiting with sticks.

After I finished playing, I went to both clubs who sing You’ll Never Walk Alone. I saw Liverpool vs Everton at Anfield. I’d played there twice, touched the This Is Anfield sign. Then I went back as a fan. Benitez was manager and Luis Garcia got me tickets. Were we recognised? Only once.

And I went to Celtic vs Milan at Elland Road? [pauses] No, Parkhead. Celtic is Parkhead. I went with friends and stood with the fans. I wore the scarf. I wanted to hear You’ll Never Walk Alone before the game, to feel it as a fan. What a great atmosphere. I love the concept of following your team.

At Celtic I wore the scarf. I wanted to hear You’ll Never Walk Alone before the game, to feel it as a fan

What was the craziest thing that happened to you in a Clasico? Any pigs’ heads?!
Robbie Weir, via Facebook
I played in a lot of Clasicos, they’re great to play in. Van Gaal said: "The team who will win will be the team who will control their emotions." How many times have we seen teams lose their heads and someone get sent off? I like the Clasicos, from getting off the team coach to the stadium. Even the warm-up was different... because you didn’t need one. You were already up for it. I could have started any of them without a stretch.

As for the pig’s head game, I saw the Barça fans angrier than I’ve ever seen before. They’re usually reserved. They go to Camp Nou to see a spectacle. The players said before: ‘We’re going to win this game, we have to win it’. It was strange that they only threw the pig’s head; I thought they might throw the whole pig! I’m a friend of Figo’s, but they took Barça's best player in his best moment. It would be like City taking Ryan Giggs in the best moment of his career, or Everton taking Steven Gerrard. It was a double action, to weaken the opponents and strengthen their own team. Luis suffered. He’s human. You could see in his face that he was suffering.