Sport Soccer

Friday 18 August 2017

Barcelona announce Ernesto Valverde as new head coach

Ernesto Valverde
Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona have named Ernesto Valverde as their new head coach.

Valverde, who stepped down as Athletic Bilbao boss last week, had been widely expected to be Luis Enrique's successor at the Nou Camp and his appointment was confirmed following a Barca board meeting on Monday afternoon.

The 53-year-old has agreed a deal at the Nou Camp to take charge for the next two seasons.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: "Valverde has the ability, the judgement, the knowledge and the experience. He promotes the youth players and he has a Barca way."

Enrique announced in March that this would be his final season at Barca and his last game in charge was Saturday's Copa del Rey final victory over Alaves.

That was the ninth trophy Barca had won during Enrique's three years in the hotseat, which included league and cup doubles in 2015 and 2016.

Barca were unable to make it a hat-trick of doubles this season as they finished runners-up in LaLiga to Real Madrid, while in the Champions League they were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Juventus.

A host of managers had been touted as possible replacements for Enrique, including Jorge Sampaoli, Diego Simeone and Ronald Koeman, but Valverde had emerged as the clear front-runner among Spanish media and bookmakers in recent weeks.

The appointment moved a step closer last week when Valverde left Athletic after four years in charge, and now he has been confirmed as the 56th coach in Barca's illustrious history.

As has become traditional with the Catalan giants, Barca have gone for a man who has links to the club and knows their traditions, expectations and renowned style of football.

During his playing days, Valverde spent two years at the Nou Camp under the influential Johan Cruyff and helped the club win the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (1989) and Copa del Rey (1990).

Valverde also represented the likes of Espanyol, Athletic and Real Mallorca as a player, while winning one senior cap for Spain, before beginning his coaching career as an assistant at Athletic in 2001.

Since then he has coached Athletic's reserve side, had two spells in charge of the first team at San Mames, as well as stints at Espanyol, Olympiacos, Villarreal and Valencia.

His most successful period came in Greece, where he led Olympiacos to three domestic league titles and two cups in his two stays at the club, while he also guided Espanyol to the UEFA Cup final in 2007, losing on penalties to Sevilla.

He has also achieved notable results since returning to Athletic in 2013.

In his four seasons in charge, Athletic have finished fourth, seventh, fifth and seventh respectively in LaLiga, reached the Copa del Rey final and the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Valverde also helped Athletic lift their first silverware in three decades when he masterminded a 5-1 aggregate defeat of Barca to win the 2015 Spanish Super Cup.

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