IF I was to attempt to describe Jose Enrique’s influence over the last couple of seasons in one word, it would be ‘peripheral’, writes ANNA WALSH.
I feel like I’ve seen him more in pictures on Instagram and Twitter in recent years than I have on the pitch, mainly due to his misfortune with injuries, in particular an issue with his knee. But having been left off the plane for the pre-season tour after 96 games and two goals since he signed from Newcastle in 2011, it doesn’t suggest a ringing endorsement from the old or the new guard in management. Enrique’s cards could already be marked after just four appearances in the league last season.
It’s perhaps not a new thing, either, when you consider that Luis Suarez revealed in his book that the Liverpool players — in particular Glen Johnson — had ribbed Enrique that it was his name in Brendan Rodgers’ infamous Being Liverpool envelopes.
Enrique signed from Newcastle for £7million under Kenny Dalglish in the summer of 2011, and at the time was seen as an impressive signing (74.5 per cent of voting fans chose him as the best signing of the summer window — a window of business that included the capture of free transfer Craig Bellamy, Charlie Adam, and the late-flowering Jordan Henderson).
At times, he linked well with Suarez. At times his love of shielding a ball was welcome. But plenty of other times he was a frustrating player to watch. Enrique even showed an ability to play out of position that Rodgers would have been proud of, stepping in for Pepe Reina for the last 13 minutes of a game against his former club Newcastle United after the Spanish keeper was sent off for headbutting James Perch. Enrique managed to keep a clean sheet, but the 2-0 deficit remained.
Having played a significant part in 2011-12 and 2012-13, Enrique suffered a troublesome knee injury that significantly curtailed his availability and match fitness over the last two seasons, followed by calf problems. During this time, Alberto Moreno and Jon Flanagan have staked a claim for his position and he became the forgotten man — a January move to Crystal Palace mooted but ultimately failing to come to fruition. Rodgers’ successful flirtation with three at the back also did Enrique few favours and if the manager returns to that formation next season at any point it’s hard to see where the player, who still has a year left on his contract, would get the nod.
Back in liverpool. Ready to start preseason. Can't wait to see my team mates and start Again to play football
— José enrique (@Jesanchez3) July 5, 2015
It shocked me to realise that Enrique is now the third longest-serving senior squad member, after Lucas Leiva and Martin Skrtel. He’s like the person who always turns up for your birthday drinks until one day it dawns on you that not only do you not know his birthday, but you’re not even sure of his surname. (Enrique? Enrique Sanchez? Enrique Sanchez Diaz? I’ve no idea.)
What Enrique has — which may tempt potential suitors if he can prove his fitness — is experience of playing in the Premier League. The 29-year-old has been plying his trade in the UK (albeit sometimes in the Championship) since the days of dial-up and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He’s also lifted the League Cup in the red and experienced life under more than one Liverpool manager. Could his experience help bed in some of the new players if he ends up staying? Maybe he should take a few of them on the Magical Mystery Tour?
Enrique’s social media activity has made him a figure of fun among fans, but there doesn’t seem to be too much criticism of him from within the club. His struggles with injury are well documented yet there have been no tales of training ground clashes and he is the first to pay tribute to team-mates when they leave or suffer an injury (using social media of course…).
His — in relative terms for a Premier League footballer — modest weekly £65,000 wage is perhaps why there wasn’t a desperation to get him out of the door when the accountants did their stock count at the end of last season. He might not yet be safe though if another club comes in for him before the end of the window, although solid links with interested clubs have been few and far between since the winter link with Alan Pardew.
Speculation that Liverpool will move for PSG left back Lucas Digne is also growing but as things stand, with Flanagan still out, Enrique’s main competition for the left back spot is his compatriot Moreno, who impressed at times going forward, if too often showing naivety at the back.
Joe Gomez has further muddied the waters after he impressed on the pre-season tour while Moreno finally got some minutes after suggestions his Anfield future was also in doubt. Perhaps then — should he stay — Enrique’s best opportunity to impress next season could be in an extended run in either domestic cups or the Europa League, particularly if the team reaches the later stages.
Going through Enrique’s social media — despite the ribbing — it is exactly what you would expect: shots of training, the team on a night out, children, pets, plus endless selfies of him and his wife in glamorous seaside locations. It’s what you might expect from a relatively settled footballer. His Instagram and Twitter show a new and very cute kitten, various club awards ceremonies and pictures of soup for tea — not exactly YNWA on his knuckles, but nor are there any cryptic comments or come-and-get-me pleas to other clubs.
Most assume Enrique’s days are numbered, not least as it seems the manager doesn’t particularly fancy him. But perhaps there is still a way back. Perhaps there is a role for one of the club’s most experienced and long-serving players as things stand. Even if it’s only to make sure that, on Skrtel’s day off, there is someone who knows how to get to San Carlo with a faulty sat nav or where the spare cones are kept at Melwood, Enrique could still play a part at Liverpool.
Pic: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo