Big Barca to test Valverde’s poise

The New Age (Free State) - - SPORT - MADRID

IN THE worst-kept se­cret in Euro­pean foot­ball, Ernesto Valverde was of­fi­cially named Barcelona coach on Mon­day.

Valverde fol­lows a long and fa­mous line of former Barcelona play­ers to man­age the club.

How­ever, un­like two of his more re­cent pre­de­ces­sors, Pep Guardi­ola and Luis En­rique, Valverde is lit­tle known out­side of Spain hav­ing had a far less dis­tin­guished play­ing and man­age­rial ca­reer thus far.

Central to Valverde’s can­di­dacy is the fact he played for Barcelona un­der Jo­han Cruyff, win­ning a Cup Win­ners’ Cup and a Copa del Rey in his two sea­sons at the Camp Nou from 1988 to 1990.

That was the high­light of a play­ing ca­reer that also took in spells at now dis­solved Basque club Ses­tao, Es­panyol, Ath­letic Bil­bao and Mal­lorca.

Cruyff is still revered in Cat­alo­nia as the pa­tri­arch of Barcelona’s style that has made them world renowned even 21 years since the Dutch great, who died in 2016, left as coach.

One of the sticks with which En­rique was beaten dur­ing his third and fi­nal sea­son which only de­liv­ered the Copa del Rey was his in­sis­tence on mak­ing Barca a more di­rect, coun­ter­at­tack­ing force.

That was in an at­tempt to get the best out of a star front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ney­mar.

How­ever, that came at a cost of los­ing con­trol in mid­field, a key tenet of Cruyff and Guardi­ola’s prin­ci­ples.

Restor­ing balance to the Barca mid­field will be one of Valverde’s most im­por­tant tasks, as will an­other of Cruyff’s lega­cies in en­sur­ing there is once more a steady flow from the club’s youth academy into the first team.

“Valverde has the abil­ity, the judg­ment, the knowl­edge and the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“He pro­motes the youth play­ers and he has a Barca way,” pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu, an­nounc­ing the ap­point­ment, said.

The youth el­e­ment is a fun­da­men­tal part of the job in Bil­bao as the club only fields Basque play­ers.

And Valverde has proven adept at har­ness­ing young tal­ents such as Inaki Wil­liams and Aymeric La­porte into the first team over the past four sea­sons dur­ing which Ath­letic have qual­i­fied for Europe ev­ery year.

Know­ing what you are get­ting your­self in for when it comes to the unique pres­sures put upon a Barca coach is key to be­ing suc­cess­ful in the role.

Guardi­ola showed that bet­ter than most in win­ning 14 tro­phies in four years.

The only time Barca went against the grain of ap­point­ing some­one from the out­side in Ger­ardo Martino in 2013-14, re­sulted in the only tro­phy-less sea­son in the past 10 years.

Valverde’s calm is what they be­lieve is needed to ease some of the ten­sions that bub­bled be­tween a star-stud­ded squad and En­rique in his fi­nal year in charge. – AFP

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