Barcelona board has some bad choices over the years, lets take a look at the controversial sacking of Ernesto Valverde.
July 7, 2020, 2:32 p.m.
Since the restart, Barcelona has dropped 6 points out of possible 15 and have made the controversial swap deal for Miralem Pjanic. The Barcelona Board has been under scrutiny for a very long time now. Another controversial decision taken by the board was to sack Ernesto Valverde midseason. Let’s take a closer look at Ernesto Valverde’s time at the club.
Luis Enrique popularly known as Lucho, had decided to not renew his contract after the end of 2016-17 Season which meant that the board had to search for an appropriate candidate. On 29th May 2017, Ernesto Valverde was announced as the next manager for the Catalan Club. Even before the season started, Valverde had to face one of the biggest problems of his managerial time at the club.
On 4th August 2017, PSG officially announced the transfer of Barcelona’s star forward Neymar. Neymar was a crucial part of Luis Enrique’s success in his three years in charge of the club. Neymar, during his 4-year stint at the club, scored 105 goals and provided 77 assists. Neymar alongside Messi and Suarez formed arguably the best trio this game has ever seen, the mighty MSN. MSN scored a massive 364 goals in all competitions in three years and provided 211 assists. MSN played a huge role in Lucho’s success.
In his first official assignment, Supercopa de España, FC Barcelona were hammered by their arch-rivals Real Madrid 5-1, and everything seemed gloomy for the Blaugranas. Barcelona had already signed Dembele for a hefty amount of 105 Million Euros to replace Neymar and things started to take a turn in the right direction for the Catalans. Valverde shifted from the Classic Cruyff's 4-3-3 to an asymmetrical 4-2-2-2 with Messi and Suarez as the forwards and an extra midfielder in the shuttle role, usually Paulinho.
This formation faced criticism due to the lack of offensive potential but Valverde did best with the squad at his disposal which was reciprocated by his undefeated streak until the 2nd leg of Quarter Finals against Roma in Rome. Catalans went into the match on the back of a 4-1 victory at the Camp Nou only to be faced with humiliation in Rome. Barcelona was defeated 3-0 in this game and was handed their first defeat of the season. Valverde was blamed for the team's lack of intensity and low morale. Barcelona, however, recovered from the loss and went on to win La Liga and Copa Del Rey. In La Liga, Blaugrana had lost only one match that too the penultimate match against Levante. In his first season in charge Valverde’s Barcelona lost only twice. Barcelona had already signed Coutinho from Liverpool in the January transfer window and looked set to regain greatness under Valverde.
After the end of the first season for Valverde, the general feeling among the Cules was that his style was a little bit too conservative. However, it was mostly due to the lack of players at his disposal. Iniesta decided to make a switch to Japan after spending 22 years at the Catalan Club. This meant a midfielder was needed to be either groomed from the academy or bought in the transfer window. Barcelona decided to bring in the Brazilian Arthur Melo from Gremio. Umtiti’s long term knee injury forced the club to buy Clement Lenglet from Sevilla. Also to replace the role played by Paulinho, Valverde brought in Vidal from Bayern Munich.
In the 2018/19 season, Valverde decided to bring back the usual 4-3-3 formation after facing harsh criticism from the fans. The left-wing position was given to Coutinho and Dembele. Semedo was the preferred right back with Sergi Roberto switching to the midfield position. This season also Barcelona won the league title with a few hiccups here and there. They made it to the Semi-Finals of the Champions League after a 3-year drought. In the Semifinals, Barcelona was tied against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Liverpool was the perfect antidote to the way Barcelona were playing in that season.
However, after 3-0 victory against the Reds at Camp Nou in the first leg, it seemed like a third treble was on the way for the Catalans. In the post-match interview, Jurgen Klopp said that “we will either overturn the result or lose beautifully”. “Corner taken quickly” still echoes in the ears of every Cule. That night at Anfield can never be forgotten by any Barcelona fan. Liverpool won 4-0 and qualified for the finals leaving the Barcelona squad dejected. Barcelona also went on to lose to Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey finals, what could have been a treble ended with only a single title for the Blaugranes. The voices opposing Valverde’s style of play grew louder. It looked like the team wasn’t mentally strong enough to face difficult situations. Messi and Co defended the coach on several occasions but Valverde’s sacking was inevitable.
Fast forward to Jan 2020, Ernesto Valverde was finally sacked after an average performance in the 2019/20 season.
Let’s take a brief look at the stats while Ernesto Valverde was in charge of the team
Ever since the departure of Neymar, Barcelona has struggled to find a replacement. None of the 100+ million signings have shown the leadership and character required to play at Barcelona's level. Dembele has spent the majority of his FC Barcelona career on the sidelines whereas Coutinho did not fit into the style of the Catalans. It seems that these signings were made out of panic and the board did not think about the future properly. What is even more surprising is that the club has also not been able to phase out Luis Suarez. While Suarez produces some magical moments upfront, his form in recent seasons has slumped and he has not been able to move the ball quickly. Valverde managed to do exceptionally well with this ageing squad and deserved to be the manager at least until the end of the season.