MADRID: Luis Enrique has announced he will step down as coach of Spanish champions Barcelona at the end of the season, saying he needs to “rest”.

The 46-year-old, in his third season in charge of Barca, was speaking after their 6-1 win over Sporting Gijon. Possibly, after the 4-0 thrashing by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League second round first leg last month, he was jumping before he could be pushed.

Luis Enrique won the Champions League as part of the treble in his first year and led Barcelona to a domestic double last season but now they are on the verge of elimination from the Champions League.

Enrique, whose contract expires at the end of the season, added: “It is a difficult, measured and well thought-out decision and I think I have to be loyal to what I think.

“I would like to thank the club for the confidence they have shown in me. It’s been three unforgettable years.

“It’s about how I live with my profession, with a never-ending quest for solutions and to improve my team. That means I have very little time to rest, very few hours to disconnect.

“I think it will be good for me at the end of the season, because I need to rest. That’s the principle motive.

“The most important thing is we have three exciting months left in all three competitions. In one of them, we are in a difficult situation but if the stars align, we will have a chance to turn it around.”

Barcelona’s win over Sporting took them to the top of La Liga, one point clear of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand. They face Alaves in the Spanish cup final on May 27.

Former Spain midfielder Enrique featured for Barcelona between 1996 and his retirement from playing in 2004.

He then coached their B team from 2008 to 2011, returning to the club as first-team boss after spells managing Roma and Celta Vigo.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: “Luis Enrique has brought us great success and he can still bring us more. The players are motivated to do it.

“We accept Luis Enrique’s decision. He has been a great coach. Now it is time to end his spell in the best possible way.”