Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has confirmed Ernesto Valverde will remain at the helm beyond this season, putting to bed doubts over the Spaniard’s future.
Valverde, 55, came in for scathing criticism from some sections of the Barca fanbase after the club suffered a humiliating Champions League defeat to Liverpool earlier this month.
Why did some fans want Valverde out? Five key things to know…
- Valverde clinched the club’s 26th La Liga title this season and could add a 31st Copa del Rey if they triumph over Valencia on May 25.
- Despite domestic success, Barca once again faltered in Europe, squandering a three-goal cushion to the Reds in the semi-final.
- Barca led the first leg 3-0, but capitulated in the return fixture, conceding four goals to draw memories of last year’s similar defeat to Roma.
- The Italian club pulled off a sensational “remontada” in the 2017/18 quarter-finals, beating Barca 3-0 in the second leg having trailed 4-1 in the first.
- Barca’s shortcomings in the Champions League have put heavy scrutiny on Valverde’s tenure, but Bartomeu has now backed the coach.
Despite waltzing to a 3-0 lead at the Camp Nou, a makeshift Liverpool side without Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino appeared to channel the blistering Anfield energy and pulled off a remarkable 4-3 comeback.
Defeat in Europe has once again highlighted the frailties in Valverde’s side, even more so after Lionel Messi declared his desire to taste continental silverware at the start of the season.
As such, some fans have called for the dismissal of the Spanish tactician, but Bartomeu has now poured cold water on any talk of a departure, voicing his backing for Valverde.
Speaking at the launch of the ‘Kubala’ book, as reported by Sport, he said: “The planning for next season is already underway, for some time. There are layers that have been signed and we will talk about it after the (Copa) final.
“Valverde? I said the other day he has the support of the president and its board. He’s the coach that we want. This is a medium to a long-term project.
“He has a contract and we’re very happy with him. Now it’s about the players recovering from the blow to their morale.”
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A busy summer?
With Valverde’s future now put to rest, the 55-year-old can begin preparations for next season, and his search for a new striker may already be over before the transfer window has even began.
Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann has long-been associated with a move to Catalonia, and the Frenchman has now declared he will be leaving the Spanish capital this summer.
As such, Barca could be set to trigger his £108m buy-out clause, finally securing the World Cup winner after missing out on his signature at this stage last year.
With Luis Suarez and on-loan Sassuolo forward Kevin-Prince Boateng the club’s only two senior strikers, Valverde will no doubt want to bring a new centre-forward to the Camp Nou this summer – and it appears Griezmann could be that man.