Josep Maria Bartomeu Defends Ernesto Valverde After Barcelona Loss to Valencia

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2019

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 25: Head coach Ernesto Valverde of FC Barcelona looks on during the Spanish Copa del Rey match between Barcelona and Valencia at Estadio Benito Villamarin on May 25, 2019 in Seville, . (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu defended manager Ernesto Valverde after the team's 2-1 loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.

The Blaugrana missed the chance to make it five Copa triumphs in succession, as they toiled for long spells at the Estadio Benito Villamarin. The result added more pressure on the coach, with sections of the Barcelona fanbase unhappy with the job he is doing.

Speaking after the loss, Bartomeu said Valverde wasn't responsible for the loss, per Sam Marsden of ESPN FC.

"Valverde has a contract," the club president said. "He's the coach. The [Valencia] defeat is not the manager's fault. We had a lot of chances, but the ball wouldn't go in. Sometimes you have all the shots, but what counts is scoring goals."

Valverde also spoke after the game, per Marsden:

"I feel fine. When you win, obviously you feel much better, much happier—but this is a different feeling to [Liverpool], even though we've lost again.

"We have not been able to fulfil the expectations that we've created throughout the season. A month ago, we celebrated the La Liga title thinking about winning a Treble and we've been knocked off that path at the decisive moment. We're here to win trophies, nothing else."

Per The Spanish Football Podcast, Valverde didn't appear to be thinking about departing:

The Spanish Football Podcast @tsf_podcast

Just watched Ernesto Valverde interviewed on TV. Very likeable as always, even in defeat. Looking understandably deflated, but gave no hint he would consider stepping down.

The result continued a disappointing end to the season for the Blaugrana. Having won the La Liga title at the end of April they were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League in embarrassing style by Liverpool, losing 4-0 in the second leg of their semi-final tie at Anfield.

On Saturday, they were without key attackers Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, and aside from the brilliance of Lionel Messi, they were one-dimensional. 

Valverde has consequently received plenty of criticism. Rafael Hernandez of Grup 14 said Barcelona have endured some lows under the coach:

Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117

Valverde responsible for three of the worst humiliations Barcelona have suffered this century. #ValverdeOut

Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117

Messi deserves a team around him, one that he can rely on. Barcelona’s been for the past three years has just been about giving it to Messi and hoping he wins it. It’s incompatible with any team with big ambitions.

There have also been some high points in his two seasons at the club. In his first season, Valverde steered Barcelona to the title despite Neymar's shock departure ahead of the campaign. He repeated the feat again this term, with the Blaugrana a long way clear of the chasing pack.

However, the coach's playing style doesn't align with the club's ethos, with Valverde often taking a conservative approach and relying on Messi to add stardust.

Spanish football journalist Andy West thinks it's time for the manager to move elsewhere:

Andy West @andywest01

It's clear the team needs a fresh start. Busquets, Rakitic, Suarez, Alba, Pique are on the wane (can still play important roles but not as undisputed starters). New blood is needed and I'm not sure Valverde has the boldness or dynamism, or credit in the bank, to lead that process

Despite the criticism from fans, all the signs are that Valverde is set to stay. Prior to the final, Messi was put up for a rare press conference by the club, and he gave his backing to the coach. 

Bartomeu's belief in Valverde doesn't appear to have wavered, either. If he does stay in charge this summer, you sense a strong start to next season is imperative for the manager in order to win over unhappy supporters.