Ernesto Valverde announced he would be leaving Athletic Bilbao last week after four years in charge, but it was already expected to take over at Barcelona from the departing Luis Enrique. The Catalan club confirmed the appointment of the 53-year-old Spaniard as their new coach on a two-year deal, with an option for a third. A host of managers had been touted as possible replacements for Luis Enrique, including Diego Simeone, Ronald Koeman and Jorge Sampaoli. Actually, the latter came first in a pool over the identity of the new coach by newspaper Mundo Deportivo.
Goodbye Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique led the Catalans to a treble in his first season in charge, the domestic double in 2016 and the Copa del Rey this year. Although Barcelona secured a 3rd consecutive Copa Del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Alaves last Saturday, it has endured a disappointing campaign by its own high standards. They were the runners-up in La Liga and were knocked out from the Champions League quarter-finals after being outclassed by Juventus.
Who is Ernesto Valverde ?
Valverde played for Barcelona as a striker between 1988-1990 under the legendary Johan Cruyff, scoring eight goals in 22 appearances. Ernesto began his coaching career with Athletic Bilbao’s youth in 1997 and he became the first-team boss in the 2003-04 season. He led the team to 5th and 9th place in two season in charge, but he left the club to took over Espanyol. Valverde led Espanyol to the UEFA Cup final in his first of two seasons as manager. Valverde then went to Olympiakos where he won the Greek Superleague title in 2009, 2011 and 2012, as well as the Greek Cup in 2009 and 2012. Valverde decided to return to Athletic Bilbao in 2013, and in his first season back at the club, he led the team to fourth place in La Liga and a Champions League spot. Furthermore, Bilbao finished in top-seven for the next three season, along with a run to the 2014-15 Copa Del Rey final. In addition, the Basque club managed to beat Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate in the 2015 Spanish Super Cup.
Ernesto Valverde brings two members of his coaching staff at Athletic Bilbao to Barcelona, his fitness coach Jose Antonio Pozanco and assistant of 15 years Jon Aspiazu.
The 53-year-old manager’s first test will be against Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the Nou Camp in August. However, Barcelona will go on a pre-season tour in U.S with friendlies against Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.