Luis Enrique was officially handed the reins of the Spanish national team on Thursday during a presentation at the Spanish Football Federation’s headquarters at Las Rozas, on the outskirts of Madrid.
The former Barcelona coach takes over the side after a disappointing World Cup overshadowed by the abrupt sacking of Julen Lopetegui two days before the tournament began. Former RFEF sporting director Fernando Hierro took over on an interim basis and has since left the federation after guiding Spain to a last-16 finish in Russia.
Luis Enrique's Spain press conference
What has the team lacked and what can you bring?
We’ll look at what has happened in the past. But I would like to emphasize the work that [Julen] Lopetegui and [Fernando] Hierro have done. The line that separates success from failure is very fine and they did an excellent job. Despite the players we have we have now gone three major tournaments without winning and that shows how difficult it is to win one. We will look at all cases individually and analyse what is best for the future of the national team.
What will your coaching style be like?
I’m very close to the players, that’s one of the things I like the most. The players tend to have an individual vision and mine is collective. There will be things we can agree on and other things that we won’t. My goal is to make life easier for the players. We have amazing players who give us hope for the future and who can do a lot of damage to opposition sides with the ball at our feet.
What does it mean to you to be Spain coach?
To represent our country; as a coach I have always said that I would like to be in charge of the national side.
Will you change Spain’s style?
It can be evolved, the same thing happened when I was at Barcelona, where there was a unique style and they hadn’t won anything the season before we arrived. We’ll maintain the style, it’s the profile that suits the players, but with a few tweaks: improving the pressure, defending better, creating more chances. The national team should be as much like a club as possible, although I’ll only have them for a week here and there.
Luis Enrique: "I’m not a fan of the word failure but the results haven’t been good"
Will you try and persuade Piqué to come back?
He’s a different case, he’s already stated his position in that respect. We have to llok at all cases individually. Piqué has demonstrated his performance levels and I’d like to have everyone available but we have to look at each player and respect their decisions. We’ll see.
Will there be a generational change?
I’m not a fan of the word failure but the results haven’t been good. But we owe these players a lot. There won’t be a revolution but an evolution. There are players coming through who we need to give confidence and we have to be as fair as possible to everyone.
Will Ramos continue as captain and De Gea as number one?
That’s something we’ll leave for the first squad. The captains are always the players with the most caps and I’m not going to change that. I don’t have any problems with any players that I know about. I don’t have a problem with Ramos. There are a lot of changes going on at the federation but it won’t affect the players.
Have you been annoyed by the criticism you’ve received?
I haven’t read any, so I’m not bothered at all. I’m not anti-Madridista or anti-anything. I want to represent Spanish football to the best of my ability.
Is Iniesta’s international career over?
He has been like a little brother to me. I played alongside him and I coached him. If he has made the decision it has to be respected. He is embarking on a new adventure and I understand him.
Have you got your first squad in your head?
I have a list of 70 names in my head. Between the World Cup, pre-season tours, the Super Cups… I have to take a lot of things into account.
What’s your opinion of VAR?
I’m absolutely pro-VAR. I think it helps the referees, there are fewer fouls, there is less time-wasting and it has its element of excitement… I love it.
What’s your position on Catalonia?
I’m not going to talk about political issues. I am proud of what I am, an Asturian who lived in Catalonia and I’m proud to be Spanish. I also consider myself a Catalan.