Monday, May 29, 2017

'Enrique out, Valverde in' Barcelona confirms former Bilbao coach at new manager

Spanish club Barcelona have confirmed the appointment of Ernesto Valverde as their new coach.

Valverde, who previously was Atletico Bilbao manager, replaces Luis Enrique and has signed a two-year contract, with the option for an additional year included.

Luis Enrique announced that he would leave Nou Camp in March, took charge of the last game of his three-year tenure as Barcelona beat Alaves 3-1 to win the Copa del Rey on Saturday.

"Ernesto Valverde is the new coach of Barcelona. I have spoken personally with him this afternoon, telling him of our decision and he said he was very happy and looking forward to the challenge of coaching Barca," president Josep Maria Bartomeu said on Monday.

"Valverde has the knowledge and experience we were looking for and he loves youth football. He has a special style and a philosophy which is similar to Barca's. He's a very hard worker, he coaches the way we like to coach. ... There are many reasons why we chose him.

"He will be presented on Thursday. [Sporting director] Robert Fernandez has been working hard over the last few months, it's demanding work [finding a new coach] and any questions you can ask him on Thursday at the presentation."

Valverde has long been reported to be the front-runner to succeed him, and the 53-year-old joins less than a week after Athletic confirmed that he would not renew his contract.

Jon Aspiazu, who has worked with Valverde for 15 years, arrives as his assistant coach, and there will be more additions to the backroom after the majority of Luis Enrique's staff left for Celta Vigo.

Valverde explained last week that, after four years in charge of Athletic, he had decided it was time for a change.

He achieved European qualification in each of his four years at the club and prior to that had a brief but successful spell with Valencia and won three Greek titles with Olympiakos.

In 2007, he steered Barca's city rivals Espanyol to the UEFA Cup final after beginning his coaching career with Bilbao Athletic, Bilbao's B team, in 2002.

He played for Sestao, Espanyol, Athletic and Mallorca, but his two years with Barcelona between 1988 and 1990, where he played under Johan Cruyff, made an impression with those responsible for choosing Luis Enrique's successor.

Fernandez drew up a short list of candidates, but Bartomeu had the final say.

Valverde will be thrown in at the deep end, with a number of decisions to be made on incomings and outgoings, a preseason tour to the United States and the Spanish Super Cup in August.

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