Barcelona confirmed the appointment of Ernesto Valverde as their new head coach on Monday.
The 53-year-old arrives after spending four years at Athletic Bilbao, during which time he won the Spanish Super Cup and led them to fourth in La Liga.
The task on Valverde’s hands is rather surmountable. Barcelona finished behind Real Madrid in the league and crashed out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage.
It’s not the most difficult job, of course. Having Lionel Messi in your team is any manager’s dream.
But the expectations at Barcelona are extraordinarily high. Their win in the Copa del Rey provided just a brief moment of joy but it wasn’t the trophy the Blaugrana were craving the most.
“Valverde has the ability, the knowledge and the experience,” Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said in a statement, via the club’s website.
“He promotes players from the youth teams and he has a style and a way of working like ours. He has a philosophy of the game that is very Barça and he is a hard worker.
“Also, he is passionate about applying technology to both training and matches.”
Barca want a right-back
Much of Valverde’s time at Bilbao was spent trying to stop Europe’s biggest clubs from signing his best players. But the shoe is now on the other foot, and the Spaniard is unlikely to waste any time in spending Barca’s millions.
One of his main priorities in the summer, according to Sport, will be signing a new right-back. Sergi Roberto hasn’t always convinced in the position while Aleix Vidal’s future is unclear.
Bellerin is the No.1 target - but they have a backup option
Their number one choice is Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin. The 22-year-old played for Barca’s youth teams and is one of the most highly-rated youngsters in Europe.
The Gunners want €40 million for the defender and aren’t willing to negotiate. So Barcelona have identified a backup in case a deal for Bellerin doesn’t go through.
Sport claim that Valverde will target Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta. The new Barca boss has always admired the Spaniard and even tried to sign him when he was the manager of Bilbao.
No doubt Azpilicueta’s versatility would appeal to Valverde. The 27-year-old has played in every defensive position during his time at Stamford Bridge.
Who should Barça go for: Bellerin or Azpilicueta? Let us know in the comments section below!
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