As Luis Enrique leaves, a coach derided in cyber Barça land for not having a philosophy, not working with youth players and being stubborn, tactically naive, etc, etc. what coach would people want to follow him?
What if someone said, here is a coach who was lauded by the late Johan Cruijff, who called him one of the best and most exciting coaches in Spain. What if this same coach took the reins at a club with a restrictive transfer policy and, relying on home-grown talent and youth players, forged a team that was always in the top seven, and grabbed a European spot this summer?
This coach started in the youth division at a club, helped that team earn promotion, helped another team to the UEFA Cup then his next team to the league championship. Then he took over the club from which he would be hired, led it to Champions League and a beatdown of the mighty FC Barcelona in the Spanish SuperCopa.
Ernesto Valverde is the new coach of FC Barcelona, and he brings a history with the club as a player, as well as a connection to the iconic Cruijff. He is a calm, logical choice, as noted in this post. Valverde is a money manager’s choice, one greeted in the hotbed of Barça Twitter with a resounding, “Noooo!” Or at best, “Meh.”
Tuchel? Yep, even though he hasn’t been able to get along with his management at Mainz or Dortmund, doesn’t have Spanish and his Dortmund team was noted for a certain defensive — capriciousness. Exciting? Sure. That team is third in the Bundesliga, 18 points off the top of the table, and didn’t have a chance in European play this year. Ah. Results don’t matter.
Oscar Garcia? An even more exciting choice for the hipsters, the man who managed Red Bull Salzburg to a league title, just like the four previous dudes who ran the Bayern Munich of Austria. All the money, all the talent. What do we know about Oscar Garcia? Resigned from an Israeli club, citing personal reasons. Led a Brighton & Hove team to defeat in the English promotion playoff semis. Returned to Maccabi, then left again, this time for political reasons. Interim at Watford before stepping down due to health reasons, before taking over at Watford.
Does anyone really think, the charm of a person with such deep Barça roots aside, Oscar Garcia would be able to handle the shitshow that is running Barça?
Of course Valverde is uninspiring. So was Frank Rijkaard. So was Pep Guardiola. So was Luis Enrique. The coach of FC Barcelona is a job for which no man born of mortal loins will ever be good enough. Valverde is the best choice available for many reasons.
— As the core of the team eases into its dotage, they need a coach who will be an evolution, not a revolution. “Run, you bastards, run?” Not hardly.
— The next coach will have a number of talented youth players from the club’s academies from which to choose. The stage will need to be set for the next coach, who will be appointed by the next president and board.
— The team needs a coach with a clear vision, which Athletic had, even as the team’s away form was suspect.
— The team needs a coach who can deal with the crap surrounding the job with calm and equanimity.
These things all point to Valverde.
Coaches and transfers are like “Whee!” psychic zones where anything goes. A German with no Spanish languuage and a history of management strife is perfect for a team that is a hotbed of politics and crap. Sure. But as with players, the coach you never have is the coach that you need, so of course anyone but Valverde will be the one.
Rijkaard got sideeye, Guardiola got sideeye, every Barça coach since Guardiola has gotten not just sideeye but outright disdain, because they weren’t Guardiola. Neither is Valverde. We all watched Athletic play and admired their structure, mental strength and willingness to fight like lions. We groused because their defensive structure made them so difficult to play against, as their coach got the most from players who were in almost every case, just a step or two down from the best that Liga had to offer. And now that coach is ours.
There will be a lot to unpack, from transfers to working style to how Valverde will interact with the team and the board. Like every person, he deserves a chance. People aren’t excited? At this stage of the team’s cycle, this isn’t a time for an exciting choice. It’s the time for a grownup, a respected manager with a flair for youth. Know anybody like that?