From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.28 :: Jul. 14, 2011
Jose Enrique has become a cult figure on Tyneside since joining Newcastle United in the summer of 2007 and a string of performances over the last two years have led to admiring glances throughout Europe.
The left-back has developed into one of the finest prospects in the English game and his future has been the subject of increasing speculation in recent months.
With just 12 months left on the five-year deal he initially signed, the Magpies fear losing Enrique for nothing next summer and could be tempted to cash in for the right price.
The 25-year-old was offered a new deal once English Premier League status had been secured for another season but with reported interest from Liverpool, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, Newcastle fans are becoming increasingly worried that the Spaniard will see his future away from St James' Park.
Earlier this year the full-back spoke of his desire to represent Spain and he may feel that he needs to move to a club with the prospect of European football to make this dream happen. It marks an amazing turnaround for a player who two years ago looked likely to join the not-so-exclusive club of expensive Spanish flops to have played for Newcastle alongside Albert Luque, Marcelino and Xisco.
He was one of a clutch of signings including Joey Barton, Geremi and Alan Smith who joined the club as then manager Sam Allardyce tried to shape his own squad following disappointing campaigns under Graeme Souness and Glenn Roeder.
Newcastle had beaten off competition from Liverpool and Manchester City to sign Enrique for GBP6.3 million after the defender had made a goalscoring debut for the Spanish under-21s.
But he failed to grab a regular place in the Magpies' back four during his first two seasons, with wingers Charles N'Zogbia and Damien Duff often preferred.
It was the club's relegation to the Championship in the 2008/9 season which appeared to invigorate Enrique and grant him a freedom to enjoy his football.
He established himself as Chris Hughton's first-choice left-back and began to develop an understanding with those around him which he had previously not been afforded the opportunity to do.
The Magpies dominated the league and allowed Enrique to attack at will as he established an almost telepathic understanding with Argentine winger Jonas Gutierrez down Newcastle's left flank.
Enrique's form on the field soon equated to popularity on the terraces. Fans voted him player of the season for the 2009/10 campaign and it was fitting that he scored his first, and so far only goal, in a 2-0 victory against Nottingham Forest to all but guarantee automatic promotion.
He then carried on his fine form in the EPL as Newcastle dumbfounded relegation predictions to finish in 12th place.
Enrique's attacking flair has never been in doubt and he weighed in with three assists during his 36 league appearances last season, but there are still some questions over his defensive skills.
Every player has a mistake in them and Enrique is no exception. He was at fault during Newcastle's 1-0 defeat to Fulham in February when ex-Magpie Duff out-muscled and out-paced him to score the only goal of the game at Craven Cottage.
But at 25 Enrique has time on his side to develop and grow into the world-class bracket. Similar negative comments were made about Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra when they were younger and yet both have won almost every prize the game has to offer. With pace to burn, the ability to beat a man and as reliable a left-footed delivery as anyone in the league, it is no surprise that Enrique's services are so coveted across the continent.
Name: Jose Enrique
Spain caps: 0
Moment to remember: Scoring his first goal for Newcastle in the 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest in his 88th appearance for the club. A 10-man pile-on celebration followed.
Moment to forget: Part of the side that conceded six goals in 41 second-half minutes during a 6-0 mauling by Manchester United at Old Trafford.
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