Perhaps the biggest factor in soon to be announced new Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde’s favour is that he’s one of their own, and ex-players are in vogue in La Liga.
In the last 10 years, nine league titles have been won by former players who have become coaches at the club they once played for.
In 2008 Bernd Schuster was triumphant with Real Madrid; Pep Guardiola and later Tito Vilanova then dominated for Barcelona before Diego Simeone conquered at Atletico Madrid, with Luis Enrique and Zinedine Zidane then taking the title back to the big two.
Ernesto Valverde is set to be formally presented as manager of Barcelona next week
Valverde is a former Barcelona player who played for the Nou Camp club for two seasons
In that time Jose Mourinho is the only ‘outsider’ to win a league. That, at least, bodes well for the 53-year-old Basque coach who will be formally presented next week after the Copa del Rey final.
Valverde played for Barcelona for two years, from 1998 until 2000. A striker, he won the Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Cup, before signing for Bilbao where he spent six years.
He never established himself as a fans favourite much less got anywhere the legendary status of Zidane at Madrid or Guardiola at Barcelona, but no one will ever need to tell him ‘that’s not the way we do things here’.
Barcelona are once again appointing a manager who previously played for the club
Playing career (1983-97): Alaves, Sestao, Espanyol, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Mallorca
Playing honours: Copa del Rey, Cup Winners’ Cup (both Barcelona)
Managerial career 2002-present: Bilbao Athletic, Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol, Olympiacos, Villarreal, Olympiacos, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao
Managerial honours: Greek Super League x3 (Olympiacos); Greek Cup x2 (Olympiacos); Spanish Super Cup (Athletic Bilbao)
There is also a feeling that while he might not have a glittering managerial CV he has over achieved at Athletic Bilbao and, free from the shackles of not being able to sign outside the region, most Barcelona supporters believe he will deliver.
He was an option when Tata Martino left in 2014 and he is a popular choice because he fits the needs of a team that must be organized more than coached.
With Lionel Messi still young enough to have a massive influence on the pitch – he scored more league goals than anyone again this season – and with Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets still strong dressing room voices, there is no need for a larger than life personality.
While the new man will need to put out a few fires, he won’t have to start any because there is plenty of spark in a squad that also includes Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Luis Enrique is a former midfielder who won two league titles and a Champions League as boss
Pep Guardiola won a total of 30 trophies as a player and manager at the Nou Camp
Mundo Deportivo covered Valverde’s appointment in their Wednesday edition
Valverde could have kept current number two Carles Unzue on. The two were together at the club as players and it would give some continuity from the Luis Enrique era that did, in the beginning at least, achieve excellence.
But potentially winning just a Cup in the last season and with Unzue falling out with Neymar recently it means he will look for a number one job at a smaller Spanish club, leaving Valverde’s trusty lieutenants Jon Aspiazu and Jose Antonio Pozanco to follow him from Athletic.
Valverde’s nice guy image means that even two seasons spent at Barcelona’s city rivals Espanyol, from 2006 to 2008, will not be held against him.
He finished UEFA Cup runners up there, and he won three leagues and and two cups with Olympiacos. It’s a modest return so far but he’s done well enough with the tools he has had.
It’s a similar story at Real Madrid where Zinedine Zidane has won titles as a player and manager
The only man to break the ‘one of their own’ rule in the last decade is Jose Mouriho
Now he has the best resources that money can buy. And beginning next Monday he has the task of making the most of that. Pre-season throws him up against both Champions League finalists, Real Madrid and Juventus, and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in the International Champions Cup – it’s not the easiest of summer tournaments but a fitting way to start one of the most demanding jobs in football.
The more closely you look back at Barcelona’s search for a new coach the more it seems they have done the ball and three cups trick with their decision to replace Luis Enrique.
They have done a lot of sliding the cups around but the ball was almost always under the same beaker – Valverde has always been the board’s safe bet.
He was the man they approached at the start of the season. Luis Enrique had expressed doubts about whether he would want to continue this summer and so they told Valverde to sit tight on his current contract, not renew, and therefore be available for free at the end of the season.
Jorge Sampaoli is another man who could have potentially taken charge at Barcelona
There were times when it looked like one of the other two balls might end up under the cup.
If Jorge Sampaoli had finished the season as well at Sevilla as he had started it and if Messi had asked for his compatriot to be boss then he might have got the job. Likewise if Barcelona had won the league and Champions League this season then he would have taken over.
Instead the baton is passed to Valverde. He will become the fourth former player to take charge in the last decade. The other three all won the league. He needs to do the same if he is to see out the three-year contract he will sign next week.