No matter what Ernesto Valverde does, it never seems to be enough for Barcelona fans
He could win three consecutive league titles and still leave fans dissatisfied
It’s not obvious why Barcelona want to change their manager Ernesto Valverde. The Spaniard has led them to the La Liga title in each of his two seasons in charge at Camp Nou and the Catalans are top of the table at the half-way stage this term. They also won their Champions League group and face Napoli in the last 16.
This is a club which talks about values, yet its sporting director Eric Abidal visited Qatar on Friday to sound out Xavi Hernandez about him taking the job while Valverde is still in situ.
Xavi, 39, who won 25 trophies in 767 games for Barca, is almost certain to manage them one day, but doesn’t want to do it right now. He feels a certain loyalty to his current team Al Sadd where his extended family include a large number of coaches who came from Barcelona.
Xavi is also wily enough to know how political Barcelona can be and that presidential elections are slated for next year. Xavi and his former teammate Carlos Puyol are close to one of the leading candidates, Victor Font.
The latest wave of criticism came after Barcelona had the 'audacity' to lose a football game in Saudi Arabia on Thursday against an Atletico Madrid side they’d already beaten in a more important competition – La Liga.
Any Barcelona slip, no matter how tiny, and there are sustained calls for Valverde to be dismissed from fans so utterly spoiled by success, they can’t seem to remember that they won only one league title between 1974-1991. Whether it's losing a game or a cup final, the vitriol is relentless.
Valverde, a thoroughly decent man, has been on a hiding to nothing since he took over. He can appear spiky and lacking charisma as he states the obvious to the media, but he’s got results.
The football has been good, but not good enough for many, or as good as that of Pep Guardiola’s side of a decade ago. The away defeats in the Champions League to Roma in 2018 and Liverpool in 2019 were hammerings you don’t expect Barcelona teams to suffer.
Valverde’s contract runs until the end of this season. He could win three consecutive league titles and even that might not be enough. He has no interest in resigning and why should he? What wrong has he done? Why should he make it easy for his employers?
Barcelona lose to Atletico
However, fans are not sold on Valverde.
“He has to go,” explains Marc, a 46-year-old who goes to every game at Camp Nou. “Look at our last home game against Real Madrid where he made defensive changes instead of going for the win. We are Barca and we are at home to Real Madrid. That draw gave Madrid a new impetus.”
There are other issues, from academy products Ricky Puig or Carles Alenya not getting a chance to the decline of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets. These are mainstream opinions rather than of those on the fringes.
Barcelona have weighed up other options. Out-of-work Mauricio Pochettino has been considered. He’s a regular in Barcelona where he keeps a family home and has done since he played for and later managed Espanyol.
It’s that past contact which could be a sticking point since he said he’d never coach Barcelona. But could he or any coach turn down the job and a team graced by the still effective Messi? Messi’s foil, Luis Suarez, 32, is out for the next four months, though.
Quique Setien, out of work since leaving Betis last May but whose sides play wonderful football, has also been considered, as has the current B team boss Francisco Garcia Pimienta.
Ronald Koeman, derided like most managers when he was at Valencia, is a club legend who scored the goal which won Barcelona's first European Cup in 1992. Then, it seemed like a goal of a lifetime. Now, there are problems if the team are not winning that competition every season, no matter what else they win.
Updated: January 13, 2020 07:35 PM