The 2016-17 campaign came to an end for Barcelona this past weekend, as the Blaugrana captured the Copa del Rey trophy with a 3-1 victory over Deportivo Alaves. But a new beginning was announced as well, as the Catalan club has signed former Athletic Bilbao boss Ernesto Valverde to replace departing manager Luis Enrique.
The deal is reported to be for two years, with a club option for a third.
Task of Consistency and Success Awaits Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona
The 53-year-old has been in charge of Bilbao for the past four years, and has kept the Basque team competitive during that time. A forward in his playing days, Valverde brought discipline and spirit to a side that often sees several young academy players make their way into the first-team line-up.
He has qualified Bilbao for the UEFA Champions League during his stay, and brought a trophy to the San Mames with the Spanish Super Cup in summer of 2015. The club had not won silverware in 31 years prior to that aggregate victory over Barcelona.
Now, Valverde takes over one of the most pressured positions in world football. Despite their recent Copa del Rey triumph, the past season was a disappointment at the Camp Nou. Valverde will need to see positive results in a relatively short period of time.
Display managerial potential
One of Valverde’s criticisms is that he will not be ready to take on a job of this magnitude. Despite coaching in some of Europe’s top leagues, guiding a club of Barcelona’s size is a new and daunting challenge for the Spanish tactician.
He has led several other La Liga sides (Villarreal, Valencia, Espanyol) along with Bilbao, and spent several years as manager of Olympiacos in Greece.
In order to get supporters fully behind his efforts, Valverde will need to showcase his abilities in match preparations, tactics and player management in his first term.
Defence and midfield
One area of Barcelona’s game that ultimately let them down was their defence, as struggles in their most important fixtures resulted in the club giving up too many goals.
Key players like Javier Mascherano, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets have struggled with fitness and form. Youngsters like Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto have incredible potential, but are still working towards optimal consistency from week to week.
The summer transfer market will be especially important as Valverde must identify which individuals will remain in the squad, and who outside of the club should be targeted.
The future of MSN
Barcelona’s new manager certainly has one tremendous positive in his favour as he begins his journey, with one of the top front-lines in football. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all have the capability to completely overwhelm any opposition.
Rumours of Messi and Neymar departing are noteworthy, as Valverde will need to earn the players’ trust and keep them at the Camp Nou.
Since Pep Guardiola stepped aside in 2012, the position of Barcelona manager has seen many faces come and go. Ernesto Valverde is the latest to take on the quest, and will want to see his side gain success in rapid fashion later this year.