Luis Enrique, a gift who keeps on giving, provided an emphatic sense that he has no issue with his Spain team being considered predictable and no longer world-beaters at the weekend.
‘What are fears?’ he asked in one of his cult open-forums on the online streaming platform Twitch. ‘Distortions of reality. The fears of others seem so ridiculous to you that you laugh. And your fears for others, the same. How can you be afraid of this?’
Enrique ranged through far more profound matters than their last-16 clash with Morocco, who now carry the hopes of the African and Arab worlds.
Luis Enrique insisted that he has no issue with his Spain team being considered predictable
His penchant for eggs, his daughter’s relationship with Ferran Torres and being follicly challenged all featured.
‘He who has hair doesn’t care about being bald, he who is bald wants hair,’ he said. ‘He who is fat wants to be thin. Conclusion — we want what we don’t have.’
When it comes to his football team, Enrique demonstrated in a fascinating, passionate and defensive half-hour of talk last Thursday that he certainly wants what he has: a team who play out from the back, whatever dangers might be attached.
It was pointed out to him that his side did not produce one long ball in a group stage which ended with defeat by Japan.
This discussion grips Spain, where Pedri’s freak own goal against Croatia in last summer’s Euros, taken with goalkeeper Unai Simon gifting Japan their opening goal here, has expanded the demand for pragmatism.
Goalkeeper Unai Simon (pictured) gifted Japan their opening goal as they suffered a 2-1 defeat
It was hard to tell whether Enrique was flushed or had been out in the sun for too long but his face was red as he launched a counter-attack on the topic of topicazos: the ‘cliches’ of football analysis, as he sees them. ‘You look at everything from an overly negative perspective,’ said Enrique.
‘I couldn’t care less about the result. I want to control the things I can. As a coach you want them to play the way you want them to play. If we have a situation and we have to go for the long ball — that’s fine. But that has to be interpreted by the player on the pitch.
‘Our idea is very clear. We will play from the back, like we have always done. I want my team to implement the idea which makes them better than the opponent.
‘It’s not fair to buy the full package only when you are winning. This is a game of mistakes. Footballers make mistakes. Buy the full package when you win or lose.’
His article of passing faith is so embedded in this squad that goalkeepers David de Gea and Kepa Arrizabalaga have been left out in favour of Simon and Brentford’s David Raya. After a 3-3 draw with the Bees last season, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp declared Raya ‘could wear the No 10 shirt’.
Even Simon admitted before the tournament: ‘When I see my games replayed I think, “Bloody hell, what a crazy thing I did there”. Or, “How difficult was that pass that I played?” But in the end that’s the way the manager wants to play and so that’s the way we do it.’
Spain find it particularly hard to break down resilient teams such as last-16 rivals Morocco
The argument about predictability and vulnerability extends to the general ethos of a Spain side who find it particularly hard to break down resilient teams such as Morocco, who have conceded just one goal in reaching the last 16 for the first time in 36 years.
Their coach Walid Regragui indicated that his side were perfectly content to soak up a million Spanish passes and look for the moment to pounce.
‘I saw that their average possession is 73 per cent,’ he said. ‘They’re going to have possession, whether we like it or not. But Japan had 17 per cent when they beat Spain. Maybe we should be talking with FIFA for points per possession.’
Morocco coach Walid Regragui (pictured) insists they will be content to soak up Spain’s passes
His indignation was with those in his own country, who have questioned his claim that Morocco’s aim is to win the World Cup. ‘Anything can happen,’ he said. ‘We tell this to our kids. We have never won a World Cup. But why not? Why shouldn’t we? Why not do that?
‘Maybe we’ll fall but we’ll fight. Maybe 30 years from now, Morocco will win the World Cup, look back and say, “Morocco said they could win”.’
Enrique would simply like to win the next match, though not at the expense of his principles. ‘If you have more merit than an opponent, you tend to win games,’ he said. ‘If not, you congratulate the opponent and go home. You want to win. But if it’s not the case, that’s totally fine.’