Barcelona hires former player Ernesto Valverde as its coach

A former forward, the 53-year-old Valverde played two seasons with Barcelona in the late 1980s and was coached by Johan Cruyff, the Dutch great who gave Barcelona its winning identity.

The calm-mannered Valverde is known for an attacking style that should fit well with Barcelona.   -  AP

Barcelona has hired former player Ernesto Valverde as its new coach.

The club confirmed on Monday that the longtime Athletic Bilbao manager will replace Luis Enrique, who ended his three-year stint after winning the Copa del Rey on Saturday.

A former forward, the 53-year-old Valverde played two seasons with Barcelona in the late 1980s and was coached by Johan Cruyff, the Dutch great who gave Barcelona its winning identity.

The expected announcement was made by Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu after a club board meeting.

Valverde’s official introduction will be on Thursday.

The calm-mannered Valverde is known for an attacking style that should fit well with Barcelona.

It was a style that helped Athletic play offensively and remain highly competitive, constantly fighting for qualification spots in European competitions. It finished seventh in the Spanish league.

Valverde led Athletic to victory over Barcelona in the final of the 2015 Spanish Super Cup, which marked the team’s first title in more than three decades. It won the first leg of that final 4-0 with an inspiring performance at its San Mames Stadium.

Luis Enrique left Barcelona this weekend after helping the club win nine titles out of a possible 13 in the three seasons he was with the Catalan club. He made the surprise announcement he would quit back in March, saying he needed to rest.

It was Barcelona’s worst season under Luis Enrique, despite winning two titles, the Spanish Super Cup and the Copa del Rey. It was eliminated by Juventus in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and lost the Spanish league to Real Madrid in the final round.

Valverde will have in his hands a team with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, but he will eventually need to start revamping part of an aging squad that includes veterans Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique.

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