Barcelona appoints Ernesto Valverde as coach

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde (Photo: AFP)

An open secret, which was finally confirmed by the Catalan giants!

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Spanish giants Barcelona on Monday confirmed Ernesto Valverde will be their coach for the 2017-18 season, finally putting to rest speculation on who would succeed outgoing manager Luis Enrique. 

The 53-year-old tactician, who stepped down from his Athletic Club Bilbao position last week, will have a presentation on Thursday. His assistant Jon Aspiazu will join him and former Barcelona player Jose Antonio Pozanco will be the new fitness coach.

Valverde has played for La Blaugrana from 1988-1990 and was a part of legendary manager Johan Cruyff’s squad, a factor which backed his hiring as he is well versed with the ethos of the club. He won the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Copa del Rey during his first stint at the Nou Camp.

“Today I have spoken personally with Valverde and he is happy and excited about the challenge of coaching Barça,” a visibly chuffed Joseop Bartomeu said at a press conference,  

“Valverde has the ability, the knowledge and the experience. He promotes players from the youth teams and he has a style and a way of working like ours. He has a philosophy of the game that is very Barça and he is a hard worker. Also, he is passionate about applying technology to both training and matches,” Bartomeu added.

The latter part of Bartomeu’s comments are interesting to note, as Valverde’s predecessor, Luis Enrique, was given a lot of flak for not playing the ‘Barca’ way i.e. dominate teams with beautiful football. While Enrique completed the Treble in his first season, followed by a League and Cup Double and winning the Copa del Rey in his final season, there were constant talks of the club being unhappy with his approach. 

Valverde has managed several teams (Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Villarreal and Valencia) in Spain and had a highly-successful double stint in Greece with Olympiacos, with whom he won the league on several occasions. However, his time at La Liga side Villarreal was not seen as a success, as he got sacked midway during the season.  

During his second tenure with Athletic Bilbao, however, he firmly established himself as one of Spain’s best coaches, leading them to a creditable seventh place finish in the 2016-17 La Liga season. Valverde also masterminded a memorable 5-1 victory over Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana in 2015. 

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