Champions League failure, reliance on Messi - reasons for Valverde to fear

Barcelona's Champions League exit to Liverpool suddenly cast doubt on Ernesto Valverde's future. There are reasons for the coach to fear.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde at Anfield   -  Getty Images

"I don't know how this affects my future," said Ernesto Valverde. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu suggested he was too "hot" to discuss a change.

Heading into Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool, Valverde and Barca stood on the brink of an incredible treble, his status set to be boosted.

A title in LaLiga was wrapped up and the Blaugrana led a weakened Reds side 3-0 after the semi-final first leg, while the Copa del Rey final against Valencia is still to come.

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But another collapse on Europe's biggest stage - a second in two years - might well change everything.

Where Valverde was previously closing on a place alongside Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique in Barca's modern history, his job now appears less than certain.

Did domestic success and Lionel Messi's brilliance disguise underlying issues? There are a few reasons why Valverde may be under pressure...


The big one. Barcelona watched Real Madrid collect the Champions League trophy in four of the past five years heading into this season and there was a determination within the club, vocalised by Messi, to put that right.

The cards fell for the Catalan giants, too, meeting Lyon and a back-pedalling Manchester United in the knockout stages. Elsewhere, Ajax took care of Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus.

While Liverpool were perhaps the toughest opponent left in the competition, they were trailing 3-0 and without Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah by the time they got back to Anfield. But once the goals started going in - as at Roma last season - Valverde did not appear to have a solution, extending Barca's barren European run to four years.

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Valverde was slightly unfortunate to arrive at Camp Nou as Neymar departed, while Andres Iniesta was soon winding down his esteemed Barca career, too. Without two players that could thrill any crowd, the team's style of play has suffered.

The Blaugrana have exciting, brilliant players in attack, but they no longer dictate the match in quite the same way as they did under Guardiola or even Luis Enrique. Each prior European opponent this season appeared to believe they were in with a chance of springing an upset before being undone by Messi or Luis Suarez.

Yet when the result does not come, as it did not on Tuesday, the justification of Valverde's tactics is slightly tougher. The notion that this Barca team are solid at the back was put to bed by Divock Origi of all people.

READ | Busquets issues apology to Barcelona fans following Champions League exit


Barca have been criticised for their recruitment since losing Neymar, yet Valverde must surely shoulder some of the blame for failing to get the best out of Ousmane Dembele, Malcom or Philippe Coutinho, players that almost any other club would love to have.

The woes of those signings and the increasingly inconsistent form of Suarez leaves Barca dependent on Messi. He rescued them from a hole in the first leg against Liverpool.

There are worse players to be reliant on than one of the greatest of all time, but Messi is now 31 and the Barca team around him appears to be getting worse. Although Valverde has done well to utilise his captain so effectively, Messi is always likely to deliver. The Blaugrana might wonder if another coach could get the rest of the squad firing.

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