Tuesday 28 August 2018, 09:44

Barça's Valverde comes into focus

  • Guided Barça to Spanish league and cup double in his first season

  • Nominated for this year’s The Best FIFA Men's Coach award

  • The coach is also a passionate amateur photographer

Being coach of Barcelona is never easy, but for Ernesto Valverde the start of his tenure at the club was especially challenging. No sooner had he taken up the reins of the Catalan giants than he had to deal with the departure of one of the team’s megastars, Neymar, to Paris Saint-Germain.

Yet in spite of the shock waves this sent through the club and the painful defeat by Real Madrid in the season-opening Spanish Super Cup (5-1 on aggregate), the new coach righted the ship and charted a course to a league and cup double – feats that paved the way for his nomination for this year’s The Best FIFA Men’s Coach award.

Discreet by nature with a calm and conciliatory personality, he is conscientious in his coaching and has a winning mentality. But how much do you really know about Ernesto Valverde?

Did you know?

  • His nickname is Txingurri, the Basque word for ant, on account of his evasiveness and small and slim build as a player.

  • As a professional striker he represented Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona and Mallorca, among others.

  • He played under Johan Cruyff at Barça, but a string of injuries limited him to just 29 games and ten goals.

  • He made one appearance for Spain – against Iceland in 1990.

  • Photography is his passion. After studying it via distance-learning, he published 66 of his best images in a book called Medio Tiempo (Half-time).

“I had planned to become a full time photographer when I hung up my boots, but football gets its hooks in you,” he once said. And so it transpired, with the Extremadura native leaving photography for his spare time to commit fully to football.

Style of coaching

With his low profile and conciliatory style, Valverde has again shown with Barcelona how skilled he is at managing groups. “Much of the mystery of whether a team functions or not can be traced back to that. Let them see that you’re going to help them become better. From the minute you walk into the dressing room, they are examining and appraising you,” he told Panenka magazine in one of the few interviews he has given.

As well as overcoming the aforementioned early setbacks, Valverde was also able to lift the team after the crushing disappointment of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg collapse away to Roma in time to close out the domestic double.

The coach also proved adept at rationing the talents of Andres Iniesta in his final season at the club, maximising the output of the 34-year-old midfielder.

“You’re always searching for the right balance, be it in a photograph or a team. Both depend on the elements at your disposal.”

And while he has always had a predilection for attacking football, he can be very flexible with his tactical arrangements, modifying the approach and framework to make them work. Nor is he one to stick rigidly to a game plan, preferring instead to adapt as circumstances require. Valverde applies the inquisitive mind of a good photographer to football.

Last season’s stats

La Liga

  • Barça wrapped up the title with four games to spare, finishing with 93 points

  • 28 games won, eight drawn and one lost

  • They scored 99 goals and conceded 29

Copa del Rey

  • The Blaugrana secured the trophy with a 5-0 rout of Sevilla in the final

  • They suffered a single defeat along the way, losing 1-0 to Espanyol in the first leg of their quarter-final

  • They racked up 24 goals and shipped just two

Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona is comforted by his Head coach Ernesto Valverde of FC Barcelona