Barcelona have named Ernesto Valverde as their new head coach ... but who is he?

Barcelona have named Ernesto Valverde as their new head coach ... but who is he?

Ernesto Valverde, who stepped down as Athletic Bilbao boss last week, had been widely expected to be Luis Enrique’s successor at the Nou Camp and his appointment was confirmed following a Barca board meeting on Monday afternoon.

The 53-year-old has agreed a deal at the Nou Camp to take charge for the next two seasons.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu told a press conference: "Valverde has the ability, the judgement, the knowledge and the experience. He promotes the youth players and he has a Barca way.

"He was not the only name on the table. From the moment Luis Enrique said he was not going to continue (technical secretary) Robert Fernandez began a search.

"He spoke to a lot of people and studied the market. Many people took part in this decision and we did look at different names but our conclusion was one name and one coach. We know him, we know what he can do.

"Robert explained he was looking for a coach who had the Barcelona profile and knows the style. Ernesto is a very hard worker. He has knowledge, experience and has a philosophy similar to ours. He works a lot, he likes using technology."

Enrique announced in March that this would be his final season at Barca and his last game in charge was Saturday’s Copa del Rey final victory over Alaves.

That was the ninth trophy Barca had won during Enrique’s three years in the hotseat, which included league and cup doubles in 2015 and 2016.

Barca were unable to make it a hat-trick of doubles this season as they finished runners-up in LaLiga to Real Madrid, while in the Champions League they were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Juventus.

A host of managers had been touted as possible replacements for Enrique, including Jorge Sampaoli, Diego Simeone and Ronald Koeman, but Valverde had emerged as the clear front-runner among Spanish media and bookmakers in recent weeks.

The appointment moved a step closer last week when Valverde left Athletic after four years in charge, and now he has been confirmed as the 56th coach in Barca’s illustrious history.

As has become traditional with the Catalan giants, Barca have gone for a man who has links to the club and knows their traditions, expectations and renowned style of football.

During his playing days, Valverde spent two years at the Nou Camp under the influential Johan Cruyff and helped the club win the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1989) and Copa del Rey (1990).

Valverde also represented the likes of Espanyol, Athletic and Real Mallorca as a player, while winning one senior cap for Spain, before beginning his coaching career as an assistant at Athletic in 2001.

Since then he has coached Athletic’s reserve side, had two spells in charge of the first team at San Mames, as well as stints at Espanyol, Olympiacos, Villarreal and Valencia.

His most successful period came in Greece, where he led Olympiacos to three domestic league titles and two cups in his two stays at the club, while he also guided Espanyol to the UEFA Cup final in 2007, losing on penalties to Sevilla.

He has also achieved notable results since returning to Athletic in 2013.

In his four seasons in charge, Athletic have finished fourth, seventh, fifth and seventh respectively in LaLiga, reached the Copa del Rey final and the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Valverde also helped Athletic lift their first silverware in three decades when he masterminded a 5-1 aggregate defeat of Barca to win the 2015 Spanish Super Cup.

So who is Ernesto Valverde?

Amid an overwhelming number of reports identifying him as Luis Enrique’s successor at Barcelona, Ernesto Valverde bid a final farewell to his beloved Athletic Bilbao.

He spent a total of 18 years in the Basque Country. Six as a player, four as a co-trainer, one each as an assistant and B-team coach, and six more over two managerial spells.

"Athletic is my club, first I say goodbye to them and then I’ll think of another team. I will not talk about others here and now," he said before he shut the door behind him at the San Mames.

He continued: "I don’t want to be presumptuous, but it is not the first time that I have had offers from important teams."

The door to the Nou Camp is the next one the Extremadura-born tactician has opened and he will certainly be no stranger to the occasion.

The almost mandatory specification to hold the managerial position at Barca is to be steeped in the club’s identity, and Valverde certainly is.

He spent two years there between 1988-90, in a team which won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and Copa del Rey.

More importantly, however, Valverde was under the supervision of Johan Cruyff, who was in his early days of revolutionising the way Barcelona would play football.

But that is not the sole reason why he has become the manager he is today. The 53-year-old has also had stints with rivals Espanyol, Olympiacos - where he won three Superleague titles and two Greek Cups - Villarreal and Valencia.

He is an astute coach and plays to his strengths. Bilbao adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation during his second spell in order to press their opponents in possession.

Under the supervision of the Valverde they entered the Champions League for the first time in 15 years in 2014, underlining his ability to achieve greater things than expected.

One notable man who flourished under his leadership was Aritz Aduriz.

Despite the striker turning 36 in February, Valverde implemented a style that suited the ageing Basque striker as he scored a peak 36 goals in 55 appearances in the 2015-16 season, opening that account with a hat-trick in the 4-0 Supercopa victory over Barcelona.

Valverde certainly knows how to play to his players’ strength, but he will be forced to rethink his long ball and crossing tactics with the Catalan giants.

Keeping Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez firing in their favoured 4-3-3 system is essential to any future success the club will have but it is in other positions where Barca have cracked.

There are strong rumours that Valverde has targeted Ander Herrera of Manchester United as his main summer signing, which would certainly help Barca’s midfield problems.

Herrera spent one year under the Spanish boss before being sold and Valverde rates the 27-year-old highly.

Bilbao rejected a £24million offer in 2013 before United activated his 36million euro (£31million) buy-out clause one year later, and it would not be surprising if they try to squeeze every penny they can for their influential midfielder.

Valverde would have to solve a few defensive issues, too, but he is known for fielding a resolute and organised team.

For the first time in his managerial career he will have real money at his disposal to construct a winning team. Could he guide Barca back to the top of Spanish football

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