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Spain manager Luis Enrique’s World Cup Twitch lessons

Across Spain, hundreds of thousands of people have been tuning in to watch national team coach Luis Enrique give his daily briefing each night. Though he retired as a player in 2004, he has become one of the stars of the World Cup in his homeland with his Twitch streams direct to supporters.

Luis Enrique has never been someone to give many interviews and his frosty relationship with journalists has often led to negative headlines, but his approach in Qatar has changed the narrative around him. Through these chats, fans have a much clearer sense of who he is and what he is like, earning him the nickname Luis Padrique, or “Daddy Cool.” (More on that later.)

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Every night at 8 p.m. local time — except on match days — he sits in a gaming chair wearing a headset and tackles the questions in the chat. He does not limit himself to football, either: everything from complicated family relations and staying in shape at 52 years old to eggs, nicknames, geography and intercourse during international tournaments has come up. Over 700,000 users subscribe to his Twitch account and 400,000-plus follow his new World Cup Instagram account, where he has burnished his divisive reputation with a string of shirtless selfies.

Each stream has helped draw an image of the World Cup’s coolest coach and as Spain head into Thursday’s game against Japan, where La Roja need just a point to book their place in the last 16, here are the biggest things we’ve learned about Luis Enrique so far.

Talking tactics is fine, but don’t expect a starting XI reveal

Most coaches are reluctant to go into detail when discussing tactics given an unwillingness to reveal too much to potential opponents, even more so in the high-stakes environment of a World Cup. But not Luis Enrique. With an hourlong stream to fill each night, he’s happy to go in-depth on how he wants Spain to play. He has been keen to dispel some misconceptions about the team’s identity, too.

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First up: Marco Asensio may have started up front against Costa Rica instead of Alvaro Morata, but that doesn’t mean Spain played with a false nine (an deep-lying forward who moves freely around the attacking third, creating opportunities for teammates.)

“Let’s knock down another myth,” Luis Enrique said ahead of the game. “We don’t play with a false nine. We play with a No. 9. Whether it’s Morata, Asensio or Dani Olmo, they occupy the same space. But their profiles are different. Marco is a guy who can turn, who can go both ways. … Alvaro has other qualities. Call it what you want, but if you watch, our No. 9 usually receives [the ball] between the centre-backs and the holding midfielder.”

Regardless of the opposition, Spain will approach each game with the same proactive mindset, looking to press and dominate possession. “We’ll go out to play the same way [against Germany],” Luis Enrique said.

One thing that will change is the team itself. “I’m not one for repetition,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever repeated a starting XI, and I expect to carry on like that in all seven games [at the World Cup].”

Spain subsequently drew with Germany after opening with a 7-0 win over Costa Rica, but that did not knock his spirit. “In terms of football, I have still not seen a better team than us,” he added on Monday. “There might be teams with more punch, like France and Brazil, but we always go out with the mentality that we are better than the opposition. Our strategy will never change.”

The new generation of youngsters have brought into his methods

Luis Enrique’s squad selection — not just for the World Cup, but over the past two years — has often drawn criticism back home. The decision to move on from veterans such as Sergio Ramos and place his faith in a young core of players, primarily from Barcelona, has not always been popular. You can forgive him an air of smugness, then, when he talks about the kids who are proving to be a perfect fit for the style he demands from his team.

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“It’s not normal what he does at the age of 18,” he said about Gavi, who with his goal against Costa Rica became the youngest scorer at a World Cup since Pele in 1958. “We all need to realize how difficult it is to do what he is doing at that age.”

Asked to name the player who has most surprised him, he went for Ansu Fati, who turned 20 in October. “Great question,” Luis Enrique responded enthusiastically. “When Ansu played against Ukraine [in 2020], with his first involvement, he nutmegged his marker, got into the box, did two stepovers and won a penalty. I turned to [my assistant] Rafel Pol and said: ‘What the hell is this? [anime cartoon] Captain Tsubasa?’”

Pedri, 20, and Alejandro Balde, 19, have also drawn rave reviews. All four are Barca players, while Balde only made his international debut in the win over Costa Rica after being drafted in as a replacement for the injured Jose Luis Gaya. “Technically and physically, Balde is extraordinary and we play in a way that he is familiar with at club level,” Luis Enrique said.

Defusing controversy over Ferran Torres’ family connection with a joke

The relationship between Barcelona forward Ferran Torres and Luis Enrique’s daughter, Sira Martinez — the pair confirmed they are an item earlier this year, sharing photos of each other on social media — could have led to awkward allegations of favoritism. Was the Spain coach only sticking with Torres, who hadn’t scored in his last eight games for his country before the World Cup, because of their off-the-field connection?

Luis Enrique had never addressed the matter publicly until a question from a viewer on Twitch — “If [Sergio] Busquets was an extension of [Spain manager from 2008 to 2016] Vicente del Bosque on the pitch, who is yours?” — gave him the chance to deal with it in the best way possible: by laughing it off. “That’s easy,” he said. “Mine is Ferran. If [I don’t say that] my daughter will cut my head off!”

Ferran, who responded by scoring twice in the 7-0 win over Costa Rica, says he’s “a fan” of Luis Enrique’s streaming, tuning in with the rest of the squad every night. You wonder what Torres was thinking on Friday when Luis Enrique was asked how he’d react if the forward celebrated a goal by sucking his thumb like a baby, suggesting a new arrival in the family might be imminent.

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“I’d take him off immediately and leave him in the stands. He wouldn’t set foot on the pitch again!”

Luis Enrique’s family history is also tinged with sadness. Xana, the youngest of his three children, passed away in 2019 aged nine from bone cancer. She has been present during the World Cup, appearing in photographs from family holidays shared during his streams. Sunday would have been her birthday.

“Today we don’t just play against Germany, it’s also a special day because Xana turns 13,” Luis Enrique posted on Instagram. “My love, wherever you are, sending you lots of kisses, have a great day and we love you.”

Geography isn’t his strong point (sorry, Costa Rica)

When you’re broadcasting live on Twitch for an hour a day, you’re bound to slip up once or twice. Luis Enrique sparked a minor international incident when, ahead of Spain’s opening game, he described opponents Costa Rica as “a South American country, who know how to play,” when Costa Rica is, of course, in Central America.

The faux pas was quickly picked up on. “His geography teacher wasn’t the best!” Costa Rica defender Francisco Calvo said. “I think you have to be educated, know who you’re playing against, and where that country is.”

A day later, Luis Enrique kicked off his stream with an apology. “I said Costa Rica was in South America. It’s a serious mistake on my part. There are no excuses, because I’ve been on holiday to Costa Rica. I’m sorry!” he said, before sharing photos from a family vacation in 2016. “I went to the beach with my family, we had a great time. I loved the food.”

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You’re never too old for a shirt-off selfie, even at 52

It’s not just Luis Enrique’s streams that have caught the eye during his time in Qatar. The 52-year-old has been sharing photos and videos on Instagram of his daily, early morning workout sessions — he was the first member of the travelling party to make use of Spain’s gym on Day 1 — and his resulting physique that would put many of his 20-something players to shame.

The coach is a fitness obsessive. He has completed two Ironman triathlons, which involve a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.22-mile run in one day. His biggest passion outside football is cycling, and he has even found time to pursue that hobby in Qatar. “There’s a cycle path that leaves from the university [where Spain are based],” he said. “It’s the longest in the world, 33 kilometres [20.5 miles] in one direction and 33 kilometres back. There’s a good temperature, 24 degrees [Celsius, 75 degrees Fahrenheit]. It’s a smooth ride.”

Diet also keeps him shape, but his tastes have proved controversial

Big talking points from Luis Enrique’s nightly streams have often focused on food. In 2021, a large-scale survey revealed the answer to a long-running debate in Spain: The Spanish population prefer their tortillas with onion. Luis Enrique, therefore, will have upset a few of his fellow countrymen when he revealed he wants his “without onion, please.”

There was also shock when he said he despises cheese, switching to English to really emphasize his point: “I hate cheese.” There was also a thumbs-down for pizza, although perhaps that is to be expected given how he likes to keep himself in shape.

Aside from triathlons, cycling and tortillas without onion, what are the other secrets to his physique?

“Eggs,” he says, before admitting he does not follow advice on limiting how many should be eaten during a day. “I can eat six or more during a day. They are one of the most nutritious foods by far, if you can make sure they are free-range. I don’t know if they are [in Qatar]. I hope there are hens grazing around here, although there are not many in the desert.

“But that does not mean I eat six every today. Today only five: two boiled and three fried. I also had some cuttlefish, sweet potato, some mushrooms and a yoghurt for dessert.”

Some vices are permitted, though. “The day before a game, with my staff, we have a beer and make a toast,” he added. “It is a ritual. Honestly, it is great for your energy.”

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Embracing his new nickname

A Spanish language trend on social media is to transform someone’s name to include padre (“dad” in English). It comes from padrear, which literally means “to parent someone,” but is also used to call someone a boss, say they’re cool or to praise them for something they have done or are doing. Luis Enrique, therefore, has become Luis Padrique — Spain’s “daddy cool,” if you will — and he has embraced it, although the literal meaning has not gone unnoticed by him, either.

“I see a lot of Padrique [comments in the chat],” he said. “I love it. I really like Luis Padrique. Uffff, 100,000 watching! And if half of you in the chat say I am your dad, I’m not going to have much of my wage left. I am enjoying reading the chat. It’s hard to keep up with it, it goes as fast as [Spain winger] Nico Williams.”

Could his popularity lead him into politics?

Could Spain’s most popular father figure become Spain’s president one day, then? “It could be an option,” he laughed. “And if I don’t fulfill 50% of my promises in the first year, I will quit.”

Steering into a more serious tone, he added: “You can make mistakes, but at least fulfill 50% of your promises in Year 1. That should be the objective of our political class. They all want to speak, they are great at that, but later. … And I am not talking about one political party or another. It doesn’t matter who it is.”

Sex and dating apps

It would not be an international tournament without the age-old debate regarding whether players perform better or worse if they are given time with their partners during the competition. Coaches have gone both ways in the past, from imposing strict bans on private time to giving loved ones free rein in the team’s hotel. Luis Enrique’s take proved very relaxed.

“It’s ridiculous [to ban it],” he said. “It’s something I consider totally normal. If you’re at an orgy the night before a match, then obviously that’s not ideal, but when I’m a club coach the players are at home the night before a game, so it’s not something that worries me.

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“If it’s something they do then it’s because they need to and want to. But I repeat, with common sense! Each one with their partner. It’s normal. When I was a player, if I was at home before a game, with my wife, well we did what we had to do.”

Luis Enrique remains happily married, so he won’t be stepping from Twitch and moving to OnlyFans or dating apps any time soon. “Is it for flirting?” he responded to a user asking about OnlyFans, later joking he wears a G-string when asked if he was a boxers or trunks man. “I have done all the flirting I needed to. I am lucky to have my wife here.”

… but he does have a date for the final

While Luis Enrique won’t be signing up for dating apps, he revealed after the draw with Germany that he has arranged a date for the day of the World Cup final. “[Germany coach] Hansi Flick and I have arranged to meet as if we were a couple,” he said. “Half-joking, half-serious, we have pencilled in Dec. 18. Being in the same group, it means we can’t meet until then.

“I hope it happens. Flick is a coach I like a lot. He won a lot of trophies with Bayern, but beyond that, he’s warm and very respectful. Germany are capable of going all the way.”

In the same passage, Luis Enrique also singled out Germany youngster Jamal Musiala as a player that has impressed him and picked out Morocco as the tournament’s sleeper. “They are showing a lot of intensity. I think they are one of the teams that could surprise us the most.”

If Spain can’t win it, Messi’s Argentina should

Argentina’s shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening game may have dented their prospects of going all the way in Qatar, but Luis Enrique has no doubts who he’d like to see lift the trophy if La Roja fall short.

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“If Spain don’t win the World Cup, I’d like Argentina to win it,” he said. “For a player of the stature of Leo Messi, it would be unfair for him [to retire] without winning a World Cup. It will be his fifth [tournament], but to be honest I think he could play a sixth. Physically and with his ambition, you can’t rule it out.”

Having coached Messi at Barcelona from 2014 to 2017 — winning a historic Champions League, LaLiga and Copa del Rey treble in 2015 — Luis Enrique understandably has a soft spot for the Argentina captain. Another favorite is forward David Villa, who hails from Luis Enrique’s native Asturias and left Camp Nou a year before his arrival as manager.

“I’d go for Villa,” Luis Enrique said, when asked to name Spain’s greatest-ever player. “He scored the most goals. But there are a lot [of good ones]: [Laszlo] Kubala, Raul [Gonzalez], [Emilio] Butragueno, [Andres] Iniesta, Quini.”

Pressure off grateful players, but a warning if all goes wrong in Qatar

The feeling around the Spain camp is that by keeping the attention on himself, Luis Enrique has lifted some of the pressure from his players’ shoulders, although it means he will also be subjected to criticism should things go wrong. There have already been questions about whether it’s fitting to be streaming when he could be watching potential rivals, who are often playing when he is online. “We download all the games and watch them the next day from a special tactical angle,” he shot back to the doubters on Saturday.

Luis Enrique will know, though, that if Spain’s performances dip and they don’t live up to expectations in Qatar, people will come for him. And if he did not, Real Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini sent him a reminder this week.

“It’s a complex relationship being a national team coach,” Pellegrini told him. “A lot of people go against him for his decisions. He’ll have his reasons for exposing himself on social media, where it’s fashionable to argue. Personally, I think it will bring him more problems than benefits.”

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So far, things are working well as even Spain’s players look forward to Luis Enrique’s streams. “When will the coach be on Twitch?” defender Aymeric Laporte tweeted, complete with popcorn emoji, after the Costa Rica win.

“I am a fan of Luis Padrique,” Pedri said. “I watch the streams and have a great time. He’s a spontaneous guy. He is going to say what he wants. It cracks me up that they call him Luis Padrique. It is great fun watching him.”

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