MADRID: Barcelona have followed up their Spanish cup victory by appointing former Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde to succeed Luis Enrique.
Valverde has agreed a two-year contract with the option of a third. He played in attack for Barcelona between 1988 and 1990 under Johan Cruyff and is one of many of the Dutchman’s former pupils to have turned to coaching upon retiring from playing.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu said: “He’s very happy very excited, he has the ability, experience and knowledge for the job.
“He loves youth football and he has the right style to coach this club and knows how the club works. He has a high work rate, he is passionate about football and interested in working with the latest technology.”
Bartomeu thanked Luis Enrique, who rounded off his three-year tenure at Barcelona on Saturday by beating Alaves 3-1 to win the King’s Cup for a third year in a row, the ninth trophy he led the club to.
He said: “We want to thank Luis Enrique for the work he did in this time, he was excellent in these three years. A great coach and Barcelona man is leaving us but the doors of the Nou Camp will always be open to him.
“However we had expected more from this season. We were not satisfied, neither were the players, nor the coaches and directors. But now we are beginning a new era.”
Valverde, 53, began his coaching career with Athletic Bilbao’s youth set-up and is the Basque club’s longest serving coach, overseeing 308 games over six years in two different spells.
As well as qualifying Athletic for Europe in five of his six years with the club, who only pick players from the Basque country, he ended a 31-year wait for a trophy by leading them to the 2015 Spanish Super Cup, beating Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate.
He also coached and played for Barca’s city rivals Espanyol, reaching the 2007 UEFA Cup final while in charge although losing to Sevilla on penalties, and won three Greek league titles and two domestic Cups with Olympiakos Piraeus.
Valverde brings two members of his coaching staff at Athletic to Barcelona, his assistant of 15 years Jon Aspiazu and fitness coach Jose Antonio Pozanco.
Luis Enrique rounded off his three-year tenure at Barcelona on Saturday by beating Alaves 3-1 to win the King’s Cup for a third year in a row, the ninth trophy he led the club to.