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Ernesto Valverde returns to the bench after two sabbatical years

BarcelonaNo interviews, no press conferences or reproaches. Ernesto Valverde decided to remain anonymous after being fired from Barça, abruptly and in a bad way, in January 2020. Since then the Extremadura coach had preferred to remain silent and enjoy a break that many thought he could be a retreat. Until the Athletic Club elections come. The Bilbao team, one of the four in the League that is not a joint-stock company – such as Barça, Real Madrid and Osasuna – was elected president on Saint John’s Day. Interestingly, two of the candidates, Jon Uriarte and Ricardo Barkala, had thought of the Txingurri, which had given them the yes. The third candidate, Iñaki Arechabaleta, had opted for Marcelo Bielsa. Uriarte won; therefore, Ernesto Valverde, a man of his word, will return to the San Mamés bench to begin his third stage as coach.

Born in Extremadura but trained in the Basque Country from an early age, Valverde (1964) played for Espanyol, Barça, Athletic Club and Mallorca before starting his coaching career. First in the lower categories of Athletic and then in the first team (2003-05). From there he would go to Espanyol, Olympiacos, Villarreal and Valencia, before returning to Athletic (2013-17). It would be in this second stage that he would qualify the team for a Cup final – which he would lose against Barça – and win a Spanish Super Cup, precisely against the Catalans. Despite the fact that their style of play did not completely fit the famous Barça DNA, the Barça team decided to take the place left by Luis Enrique in 2017.

Valverde’s passage through the Camp Nou was convulsive. It started with the departure of Neymar that same summer and continued with a transfer policy that would bring names like Dembélé and Coutinho to the first team. Valverde, however, knew how to patch the team and, with Messi as the spearhead, he won two leagues, a Cup and a Super Cup. He was even close to the treble, but in the 2018-19 season Barça would lose resoundingly in the Champions League semi-finals against Liverpool, after the red they went back 3-0 in the first leg with a fateful 4-0 at Anfield.

Valverde was the victim of a poorly made staff and a sports policy that had no fixed course. He was suspended in January 2020 after being eliminated in the Spanish Super Cup, at the hands of Atletico Madrid, in the semifinals. Interestingly, at that time Barça was the leader of a league that would end up losing.

Ernesto Valverde leaving the Joan Gamper Sports City.

Considered a club man, Valverde is a coach who prefers to move away from the spotlight and opt for deaf and steady work. Always accompanied by Jon Aspiazu, his right hand man, Txingurri returns to Bilbao with a game manual that involves having the ball and playing on a rival field. In San Mamés they are waiting for him with open arms, especially for the memory of their second stage, in which they managed to qualify Athletic for four consecutive seasons to play in Europe.

Valverde, with 307 games in a row, beat Javier Clemente as the coach with the most duels in the Basque team. It will now further expand that record. His presentation will be imminent, so the new president has taken office. Athletic will return to work at the beginning of July with Txingurri on the bench taking the place of Marcelino García Toral, coach for the last two years.

Jon Uriarte wins the Athletic Club election by scoring an absolute majority

The Athletic Club elections have not been without controversy, especially when it comes to setting up nominations and during the process of collecting endorsements. Uriarte, a businessman from Bilbao, led the polls and ended up winning in an election that had a record turnout, with 57% of voting members going to the polls (23,506 of the 40,257). Ricardo Barkala, president of the Port Authority, gathered 4,620 supporters (18%) and the executive Iñaki Arechabaleta had 7,928 votes (34%), while the winner Uriarte had 10,979 votes in favor (47%), close to the absolute majority . The polls closed at nine in the evening and the count was longer than many thought, as the result did not become official until past midnight.

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