Football

Barca give Enrique a perfect farewell

Luis Enrique feels he is leaving Barcelona with his head held high after leading the club to another trophy.

Barcelona won the Copa del Rey with a 3-1 victory over Alaves in Enrique's final game in charge yesterday morning (Singapore time).

It is the ninth trophy of Enrique's three-year reign, which has included Copa del Rey triumphs in each season.

Their latest victory was earned with first-half goals from Lionel Messi, Neymar and Paco Alcacer, following a campaign which has seen disappointment in both La Liga and Europe.

Enrique, who announced in March he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, was delighted to end his reign by winning the final at the Vicente Calderon.

"I feel happy because I have enjoyed a lot making Barca fans happy by winning trophies and that makes me proud," Enrique said on Barcelona's website.

"Nine trophies out of 13 is a pretty good record."

Enrique insists he has no regrets over his decision to leave.

"I decided to stop because it will be the best for me and the best for the players," he said.

The former Roma coach, who told Marca he was "open to any possibility", leaves the club on good terms and with an invitation to return to the Nou Camp.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: "Luis Enrique has done a very good job and we are very grateful.

"The door is always open for him to return when he wants. He has been a successful manager".

As has happened often throughout Enrique's reign, Barcelona were boosted by a brilliant display from Messi.

Enrique felt Messi was "from another planet" after the Argentina forward set Barcelona on their way with his 54th goal of the season, before superbly setting up Alcacer for the third.

"He is extraordinary, an extraterrestrial," Enrique said of Messi after he lifted his 30th trophy at Barca a month ahead of his 30th birthday.

"To be the number one, you don't just have to be top in all the technical aspects of the game, but you have to be very strong physically.

"Leo Messi is a very strong player, he takes care of himself as much as he can. He has a change of pace which he will maintain. Messi will be around for a while to come."

Neymar had a hand in Messi's opener before scoring for the third successive Copa del Rey final.

His goal put Barca back in the lead after Theo Hernandez had equalised with a sensational free-kick. - WIRE SERVICES

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