BARCELONA Spain AP — Barcelona has hired former

first_imgBARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona has hired former player Ernesto Valverde as its new coach.The club confirmed on Monday that the longtime Athletic Bilbao and Olympiacos 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.His teams prioritize ball possession and like to pressure high in the attack while without the ball. His most used scheme with Athletic was the 4-2-3-1, with a true striker up front.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.He announced he was leaving Athletic last week after four seasons. He also coached Athletic from 2003-05. Valverde has coached the most matches in Athletic’s history. He also played for the club from 1990-96.His other jobs were at Espanyol, Olympiakos, Villarreal and Valencia. He led Espanyol to the UEFA Cup final in 2007, losing to Sevilla in a penalty shootout.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.His first official match will likely be against rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final in August.TweetPinShare22 Shareslast_img

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