The need to replace Ernesto Valverde: 3 contenders for the Barcelona job
Ernesto Valverde is into his third season at FC Barcelona with the club at the top of the La Liga and their group in the Champions League. Two league titles and one Copa del Rey in two years are decent achievements, but clearly not for a club like Barcelona.
Having said that, we must give credit where it's due. When he was appointed in 2017, the season was already written off before it started, such was the negativity around the club because of Neymar's departure. His management was what the squad needed at the time to be calm and go about their business.
Had it not been for the 4-5 defeat against Levante when Messi was rested, the Catalans would've been unbeaten that season. It's a feat which must be applauded. Things went downhill after defeats in the Champions League against AS Roma in the quarter-final and Liverpool in the semi-final in the following seasons, suffering a remontada of their own for two consecutive years.
To everyones disbelief Valverde was retained even after the Copa del Rey final loss against Valencia, which was seen as the breaking point. It was natural that questions would be asked in the 2019-20 season at the very first sign of trouble.
Unsurprisingly, three away losses in the league by November and underwhelming performances in the Champions League have increased the pressure on him. #Valverdeout is a common theme on social media after each game.
He has had to face questions in post-match interviews about his future and whether he plans to resign. It is not sustainable for a club which expects another treble, considering the quality of the squad. Having established this, let's look at the potential candidates who could replace him.
The manager of the Netherlands national team since 2018, Ronald Koeman appears one of the favourites for the Barça job. It is clear that he's more than interested. Nico-Jan Hoogma, the sporting director of the Dutch national federation let it slip that Koeman has a clause in his contract which allows him to leave for Barcelona. While never admitting to the actual clause prior to this revelation, Koeman has always maintained that his dream is to manage the Catalan club.
Having been part of Johan Cruyff's dream team in the 1990s, he scored the winner against Sampdoria in the European Cup Final in 1992, making Barca European Champions for the first time in their history. It goes without saying that he is a club legend. An elegant, goal-scoring centre-back in his playing days, he shared the dressing room with Marco van Basten, former manager Frank Rijkaard and Dennis Bergkamp among others. Thus, he understands what it means to play at the very top level.
In terms of his football ideology, he is, unsurprisingly, influenced by Johan Cruyff. It's almost a job requirement if you think about it. He has already been an assistant coach at Barcelona during 1998-2000. With regards to his managerial achievements, he has won domestic cups in three countries and won the league with Ajax (twice) and PSV Eindhoven. He would look to play the football that is expected of Barca and have no problems in managing the stars at the club. On paper, he does appear to be a good fit.