Who is FC Barcelona’s Newest Coach, Ernesto Valverde?

Time to meet the new boss.

Ernesto Valverde left Athletic Club Bilbao after a four year spell to become FC Barcelona’s newest coach, taking the reigns from Luis Enrique. Who is he? Let’s dive in.

He was born in Viandar de la Vera, in the province of Cáceres, in Extremadura in 1964. As an infant, he moved to the Basque country. Eventually, he made his way to the Deportivo Alaves youth system, the club which gave him his debut in the Segunda Division, before moving on to the Basque team Sestao Sport Club, also in Segunda.

He eventually wound up at RCD Espanyol, where he made his La Liga debut. After two years, he moved crosstown to FC Barcelona, where he would stay a further two years. During that time, he won a Copa del Rey and an UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. He was not frequently used under Johan Cruyff, in large part due to injury problems, though Cruyff revealed later that he always liked him.

In 1990, he moved to Athletic, being eligible to play under the club’s Basque-only policy due to having lived as a youngster in the Basque country. There he spent the biggest chunk of his playing career, becoming an important player for the Bilbao-based club. He finished his playing career with one season at Mallorca.

As a manager, he began as an assistant at Athletic, then coached Bilbao Athletic (their B team) before taking the reigns of the senior side in 2003.

He did a good job in his first season, getting into the UEFA Cup thanks to a fifth place finish. In his second season, his team finished a respectable 9th. He left after disagreements with the club president, Fernando Lamikiz.

After taking a years’ sabbatical, he coached another team he used to play for: Espanyol, who had finished 15th previously. He took them to a comfortable 11th place finish, Notably, he took Espanyol to the UEFA Cup Final as well, where they lost in dramatic fashion. Despite having equalized in added time a man down against Sevilla, they lost on penalties. In his second and last year at Espanyol, his team finished 12th.

He took over Greek side Olympiacos FC for a year, winning the domestic double. He was not renewed due to financial issues despite his success and signed for Villarreal back in Spain after Manuel Pellegrini was signed by Real Madrid.

He was considered a disappointment at Villarreal, who finished fifth the previous season. They had a very sluggish start and though they improved as the season went on, Valverde was sacked midway. His team was 9th when he was sacked and ended the season 10th.

He returned to Greece to get his career back on track. Olympiacos failed to win the league while Valverde was gone, but they won it again the season he came back, and once more for the next year Valverde managed them. He also won the Greek Cup once more.

Once again he returned to Spanish football in 2012, this time as a replacement for Mauricio Pellegrino after he was sacked during the season by Valencia. Los che were in 12th place in December, and Valverde was tasked with bringing them up to European places.

It was at this time that his former boss, Cruyff, praised him: “It’s a great decision by Valencia. When he was a player, he was very smart, and he always showed interest in learning. He is one of the most accomplished and promising managers in Spanish football.”

Valverde backed up the Dutchman’s high praise with a job well done, finishing the season in fifth place. During his time as coach, only Barcelona and Real Madrid were ahead of him in terms of points. However, he decided not to renew his contract at Mestalla.

He was appointed Athletic Club manager once more in 2013. The lions had just come off a middling season under Marcelo Bielsa, who the season before had brought them to the Europa League and Copa del Rey final. But in Bielsa’s second year, they finished 12th and were eliminated very early from both the Europa League and the cup.

Valverde’s first season at Athletic was an unmitigated success as they finished fourth and got into the Champions League. His second season saw them finish a respectable 7th in the league but return to the Copa del Rey final, where they were undone by Luis Enrique’s treble-winning Barcelona and a Lionel Messi goal for the ages.

They got their revenge in due time, and how. Valverde’s men faced Barcelona in the Spanish Supercup, where they thrashed them in the first leg 4-0. The second leg finished 1-1, and at last, Athletic had a trophy. – their first in 31 years. They also had another strong finish in La Liga – 5th. In this past season, his fourth and final, Valverde’s Athletic finished 7th again.

Valverde was on Barcelona’s radar for a very long time and had previously been considered when Tata Martino left and the job eventually went to Luis Enrique. Now, he finally has his chance.

So, we all know Josep Guardiola went by Pep. Francesc Vilanova went by Tito. Gerardo Martino went by Tata. Luis Enrique Martinez went by Lucho. What cute, simple nickname does Ernesto Valverde prefer? Txingurri.

Come again? It’s the Basque word for “ant.”

OFFICIAL: Barcelona confirm Ernesto Valverde as new coach

The coach will be presented on Thursday

The moment we have all been waiting for has finally arrived as Josep Maria Bartomeu has officially confirmed that Ernesto Valverde will replace Luis Enrique as Barcelona coach.

Speaking at a press conference this evening following a board meeting Bartomeu says Valverde is excited about taking over and will be introduced on Thursday.

“I’ve spoken personally with him [Valverde] this afternoon and I told him of our decision,” he told a press conference.

“He said he’s excited, very happy and that it is a great challenge to come here and be coach of Barcelona.

“We know he has the ability, the judgement, the knowledge and the experience. He promotes the youth players and he has a Barça way.

“He has a special style that is similar to what we do at our club – and he has a philosphy that is similar to Barca’s.

“He is a hard worker and he is a fan of using technology in training and in managing matches.

“We look for excellence therefore we can’t say that last season was fully successful and we are not fully satisfied.

“I don’t think the players are satisfied with the season we’ve had either. The announcement today opens a new sporting step for the club.”

Welcome to Barcelona, Ernesto!

FC Barcelona 2016/17 in Review: Game of the Season

Reviewing the best games of Barcelona’s 2016/17 season.

The 2016/17 season is in the books for FC Barcelona, and while it may not have been the most successful year in the Catalans’ history, Luis Enrique’s men again played some dazzling football at numerous points of the season.

In this first installment of the Season in Review, we will look at three of the best games Barcelona played this season, in the end, you will decide which one of the three contestants will be crowned Game of the Season. Even though many consider this Barcelona season a disappointment, picking just three games was a very difficult task, and a list of honorable mentions could’ve been twice as long as this list will be.

But without further ado, here are the three nominees for Game of the Season (in chronological order)

1. Barcelona 3-0 Sevilla (Supercopa de España 2nd Leg, 17 August 2016)

Barcelona came into the game in a commanding position, leading 2-0 after the first leg played at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, but Sevilla under Jorge Sampaoli often showed a never-say-die attitude. But Barcelona showed their winning mentality and quickly added to their lead through the in-form Arda Turan. Around the half-hour mark it became interesting as Sevilla were awarded a penalty kick, but Claudio Bravo excellently saved Vicente Iborra’s strike. Sevilla remained dangerous, but Barcelona would not buckle under pressure, adding two goals in the second half, including a stunning Arda long-range strike, to secure the first trophy of the new season.

Highlights:

2. Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain (Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg, 8 March 2017)

Much has been said about this match – the biggest comeback in European football history – and rightfully so. Barcelona were absolutely hammered in the first leg in Paris, earning a 4-0 loss, seemingly making the return leg a mere formality, but the Catalans, led by Neymar, had different plans.

Slowly but surely, Barcelona started to chip away at PSG’s lead, halving PSG’s advantage by half-time through goals from Luis Suarez and an Layvin Kurzawa own goal. Then Lionel Messi made it a one goal game from a penalty, but disaster struck when Edinson Cavani scored the all-important away goal. Barcelona suddenly needed three more, and with time running out the tie was all but decided. Then Neymar took center stage, first curling a free kick in the 88th minute to provide a spark. Three minutes later he converted a penalty to draw the two teams level, but with PSG in front due to the away goal. Five minutes of added time were running out, and with everybody forward Neymar provided one last hopeful ball in front where Sergi Roberto poked the ball into the back of the net to complete the most unlikeliest of comebacks.

Highlights:

3. Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona (La Liga Round 33, 23 April 2017)

Barcelona’s title hopes were fading fast and to have any hope of a late season turnaround the Catalans had to win at the Santiago Bernabeu. And win they did – in dramatic fashion, and while it may not have been a vintage Barcelona display, under the circumstances, it was massive. Barcelona found themselves in a hole after Casemiro opened the scoring, setting up another Barcelona comeback. Messi leveled the score shortly thereafter, before Ivan Rakitić rocketed Barcelona in the lead midway through the second half. Playing with a man advantage, Barcelona were unable to protect the lead, but in the final seconds of the game Messi scored in brilliant fashion to set up a neck and neck race for the remainder of the season, but Barcelona didn’t get any help they desperately needed.

Highlights:

These are your three nominees, please use the poll below to decide the winner. Use the comments section to voice your opinion on the nominations, your vote, omissions from the top three, etc.

Barcelona players send great goodbye messages to Luis Enrique

Safe to say they’re thankful to the manager

The Luis Enrique Era is officially over at Barcelona today. After three years and nine trophies, Lucho is no longer the club manager, and as tumultuous as his three years have been, it’s safe to say he’s built a special relationship with his players.

Enrique doesn’t have the easiest of personalities, and he almost lost his job just six months in after serious clashes with Lionel Messi, Neymar and others. But with time and trophies Lucho has earned the respect and admiration from his players, and they will miss him.

And plenty of them took to social media over the weekend to say their goodbyes to Luis Enrique. Here’s a few of their tweets, facebooks and instagrams:


Te deseo toda la suerte en tu nueva etapa, Luis Enrique. Gracias por estos años.

Wishing you the best of luck in the…

Posted by Leo Messi on Monday, May 29, 2017

Thank you so much mister for all that you’ve done for this club and above all for me this year.

Thank you so much for everything mister and good luck in your new challenges and goals!

Controversial Luis Enrique Leaves Barcelona with a Raft of Trophies

After three seasons.

The Luis Enrique era is over after the latest Copa del Rey triumph. Ernesto Valverde of Athletic Club Bilbao will by every account be named his successor. But before we get swept up in the plans for the future, let’s talk about the era we just completed.

It’s sometimes overlooked that Luis Enrique was an important player before he was a manager. He spent 8 seasons at Barcelona, where he developed a reputation for being a jack-of-all trades and a reliable goalscorer. He also captained Barça and was one of their best players of the mid 90s to mid 00s.

After retirement, he became a manager. Lucho was a coach linked with Barcelona often because he had been highly successful as B team coach. He brought them back to the Segunda Division after an 11 year absence. After, he left to start a project at AS Roma in 2011, hoping to export the Barcelona model to Italy. Here he had a middling season while he tried to reformat the side. His team finished 7th, about par for Roma in those times (in the preceding season they finished 6th, in the next one 6th again.)

He left after one year and wouldn’t return until 2013, when he took over Spanish side Celta Vigo. Here he achieved his first success as first team manager. The year before Lucho arrived, the Galicians had finished two points above the drop thanks in large part due to top scorer Iago Aspas. When Lucho arrived, Celta sold Aspas to Liverpool. Yet Lucho’s men got into the top half of the table. They finished the season on a flurry of good results, four wins out of five… including a 2-0 victory over Real Madrid that ended Los Blancos‘ title hopes.

For his good work at Celta and longtime association with Barça, Luis Enrique became the Catalans’ manager in 2014. His first year started off very strongly but almost fell apart at the midway point. A loss in el Clasico and a memorable defeat to Real Sociedad started talks of a crisis that ended in the sacking of sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta.

Despite the doom and gloom, the team was not doing all that bad. They won their Champions League group, were in striking distance of the league, and were progressing in the cup. However, that shock seemed to jolt them into form, and from then on, they looked nigh-unbeatable.

Finishing with just the second treble in history – and becoming the first club to have two – was a phenomenal success for Lucho. More so when you consider his perilous Champions League path, which included Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage, Manchester City, PSG again, Bayern Munich, and Juventus.

His follow up season was almost as successful, with a domestic double, the European Supercup and the Club World Cup, and an iconic 4-0 win over Real Madrid. But Barcelona fell short in the Champions League, where they were eliminated by Atletico Madrid.

In this past season, it was another reduction in the number of trophies: just the cup this time. They were close in the league, missing out by just three points. But the Champions League campaign was chaotic. Yes, it produced one of the most memorable comebacks of all time, when they defeated PSG 6-1 in the second leg, 6-5 on aggregate. But the fact is they lost to PSG and Juve by appalling scorelines away from home (0-4 and 0-3). Against the Turin based club, they could not overturn it.

Luis Enrique was criticized for a sometimes confusing youth policy. He gave playing time to Munir El-Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez but both were shipped off for the expensive Paco Alcacer, possibly with little improvement in the process. Marc Bartra was let go partly in favor of veteran Jeremy Mathieu. Andre Gomes was bought with Denis Suarez, Rafinha, and Sergi Samper already in the team. Alex Grimaldo was never given a chance while Lucas Digne was bought.

Equally, he did oversee the renaissance of Sergi Roberto and brought along Marlon, who looks like a good player. Rafinha has Lucho’s fingerprints all over him, having coached him in the B team, brought him to Celta, then brought him back to Barcelona. Luis Enrique gave several young men their debuts, though it remains to be seen how many have a long term future at the Camp Nou.

A fitness freak, Luis Enrique emphasized maintaining physical condition with a very aggressive rotation policy, which sometimes landed him in trouble after fielding under-strength sides. He had a prickly personality that rubbed some the wrong way, but he was also a very witty guy that the players seemed to eventually warm up to.

There were also complaints about playing style and tactics, with a team set up to counterattack more often and a de-emphasis on midfield play. It was sometimes hard to forget that yes, Barcelona did dominate possession in nearly every game they played. And that over the years, the team was not always a model of tiki taka, and probably won’t always will be.

The complaint is there, but it’s a matter of taste. When it comes to results, there’s no arguing Lucho brought a slate of trophies most managers would be envious of. And in truth, only Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff surpass him when it comes to winners’ medals in Catalonia.

Luis Enrique might fall short of that high bar, but there’s hardly any shame in coming close to such a stratospheric standard.

Speaking earlier this year, Gerard Pique reflected: “When Luis Enrique came, we came from being absolute sh*t. I would like everyone to remember all the work he’s done with us and all he left us in his time as player. We are with him to the death.”

More recently, Pique went further: “He is one of the best managers in history. It’s easy to just remember the titles, because there have been so many. However, the thing I’ll remember is him as a person. He didn’t always have the best relationship with all of us, but he eventually conquered the locker room. It’s been three wonderful years.”

How will you remember Luis Enrique?

Ter Stegen signs new long-term Barcelona deal

The goalkeeper has committed his future to the club

Barcelona have confirmed they have agreed a new deal with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and he will officially sign his new contract on Tuesday.

The new deal will keep the Germany international at Camp Nou until June 2022 and contains a massive new buy-out clause which stands at €180 million.

Ter Stegen has become the club’s undisputed No.1 this season following the departure of Claudio Bravo to Manchester City and has enjoyed a strong season this time around.

The 25-year-old will also be in action this summer having already been named in Germany’s squad for the Confederations Cup.

With the season now over Barcelona look to be getting down to business quickly with the home kit having being unveiled this morning and Luis Enrique’s replacement expected to be announced later today.

The board meeting is already underway with a press conference due to start at around 19:00 local time.

Ernesto Valverde is expected to be announced as the club’s next manager having already stepped down from his post at Athletic Bilbao.

It’s also possibly we could get an update on Lionel Messi’s new contract with an extension believed to be close now.

It has definitely been a busy start to the week and it also promises to be a very interesting summer with Josep Maria Bartomeu have already pledged new signings.

“Every summer Barça have to strengthen and renew,” he said. “Players will go and there will be new signings,” he told TV3.

“Players will arrive which excite, others not so much. We are clear on the job we have to do this summer.”

Stay tuned!

FC Barcelona News: 29 May 2017; New Kit Unveiled, Barcelona B Miss Promotion Opportunity

The new FC Barcelona kit for the 2017/18 season | FC Barcelona
The new FC Barcelona kit is finally here. For the first time the shirt will bear the name of Japanese company Rakuten, the Club’s new global sponsor from 1 July. The kit will be available from 1 June at Nike.com/FCB and in the Club’s official shops and distributors.

Luis Enrique, nine titles in three seasons with FC Barcelona | FC Barcelona
Luis Enrique capped his last game as FC Barcelona manager with a trophy, ending his three-year spell with a total of nine titles.The 3-1 win over Alavés on Saturday night sealed his third straight Copa del Rey success, meaning that he ends his spell as coach with an average of three trophies per season.

Juan Carlos Unzué leaves Barça to become Celta coach | FC Barcelona
Juan Carlos Unzué is leaving Barça to become Celta Vigo coach for the next two seasons. The man who has been assistant coach at FC Barcelona over the last three seasons returns to the club where he was assistant to Luis Enrique in the 2013/14 before both men joined the blaugranes.

The Copa del Rey champions’ return! | FC Barcelona
The cup champions are back home! The blaugranes returned back to Barcelona after their victory over Alavés in the Vicente Calderón in the Copa del Rey final thanks to goals from Messi, Neymar and Paco Alcácer.

FC Barcelona’s Copa del Rey triumph, by the numbers | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona picked up their third straight Copa del Rey trophy after a 3-1 win over Alavés on Saturday night and, in doing so, conjured up some impressive numbers. We take a look at some of the most interesting stats and facts from the latest cup success.

Barça XI with most Copas del Rey | FC Barcelona
Barça are the King of the Cup with 29 victories to their name in the competition, more than any other club in La Liga. The latest came in the 3-1 win over Alavés, a third successive victory for the team in the Copa del Rey with Luis Enrique as coach. Furthermore, the victory in the Vicente Calderón means that Messi, Iniesta, Piqué and Busquets are amongst the eleven most successful players in the Club’s history in the cup with five victories.

Messi’s exhibition at the Calderón | FC Barcelona
Leo Messi once again showed he is the man for the big occasion with another brilliant display to help Barça claim the Copa del Rey against Alavés. Messi scored the opener after an intricate one-two with Neymar before caressing the ball into the corner of the net.

Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano to miss Argentina friendlies through injury | ESPN
Javier Mascherano will miss Argentina’s summer friendlies against Brazil and Singapore after he injured his knee in the Copa del Rey final against Alaves.Mascherano was taken off in the early stages of the 3-1 win at the Vicente Calderon on a stretcher following a clash of heads with Marcos Llorente.

Manchester United’s Ander Herrera set to snub Barcelona move – sources | ESPN
Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera is prepared to turn down a summer move to Barcelona, sources have told ESPN FC.Herrera is reportedly a transfer target for incoming Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, but the sources said the 27-year-old — United’s Player of the Year this season — would turn down the chance to move to the Camp Nou.

Cultural Lleonesa v Barça B: Path to promotion gets more difficult (2-1) | FC Barcelona
Barça B were unable to overturn the first leg deficit against Cultural Lleonesa in the second leg. The blaugranas took the lead through Alfaro in the first half and were in with a chance but the home side put in a strong second half performance to win the game and secure promotion to Division 2A. Barça B now need to successfully navigate two more knockout rounds to join their opponents in celebrating promotion.

OFFICIAL: Barcelona unveil new 2017/18 home kit

It’s finally here…

After months of leaks, Barcelona have officially unveiled their new home kit for 2017/18, the shirt sponsored by Japanese firm Rakuten for the very first time.

As we have already seen the shirt features stripes gradually decreasing in thickness with blue shorts with a red stripe and blue socks with a red strip down the calf.

The shirt also features the word “Força” on the inner right sleeve and “Barça” on the left while the collar has a Senyera design – the kit is available to buy on June 1.

What do we think Barca fans? Like the kit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

OFFICIAL: Barcelona unveil new 2017/18 home kit

It’s finally here…

After months of leaks, Barcelona have officially unveiled their new home kit for 2017/18, the shirt sponsored by Japanese firm Rakuten for the very first time.

As we have already seen the shirt features stripes gradually decreasing in thickness with blue shorts with a red stripe and blue socks with a red strip down the calf.

The shirt also features the word “Força” on the inner right sleeve and “Barça” on the left while the collar has a Senyera design – the kit is available to buy on June 1.

What do we think Barca fans? Like the kit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Juan Carlos Unzué leaves Barcelona for Celta

The club have confirmed another departure

Barcelona have confirmed that assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzué has left the club after agreeing a two-year deal to manage Celta Vigo.

The 50-year-old replaces Eduardo Berizzo at Balaidos after he stepped down from his post at the end of the season.

Unzue will take coach Robert Moreno, fitness coach Rafa Pol and psychologist Joaquin Valdé with him for his second spell at Celta having been an assistant there to Luis Enrique before following Lucho to Camp Nou in 2014.

Unzue had reportedly been in the running to replace Luis Enrique as manager of Barcelona earlier this season after Lucho had announced his decision to leave this summer.

However, it now appears Ernesto Valverde will be the next man to take over the Camp Nou hotseat with an announcement on that front expected tomorrow.

Valverde is also expected to bring in his own team so it’s little surprise to see Unzue head back to Celta, a club he knows well and it will be interesting to see how he fares next season.