Zinedine Zidane Feels 'Sorry' for Ernesto Valverde Following Barcelona Sacking

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2020

MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 23:  Zinedine Zidane, Manager of Real Madrid greets Ernesto Valverde, coach of Barcelona prior to the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 23, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has said he feels "sorry" for Ernesto Valverde after he was sacked by Barcelona this week.

The Blaugrana made the decision to part ways with Valverde despite the fact they are level with Madrid at the top of the La Liga table. He was replaced by Quique Setien, who will take charge of the team for the first time on Sunday, when Granada are the visitors to the Camp Nou.

Speaking on the eve of his own team's match with Sevilla, Zidane offered his thoughts on Barcelona's change of manager, per AS (h/t Football Espana):

"I'm sorry for him. He's a coach who has shown how good he is, and I have a lot of respect for him. As coaches at clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona, we know where we're at and that isn't going to change.

"If I lose a couple of games I'm going to get criticised, as I did a month a half ago. You can only try to give 100 per cent. I'm sorry for Valverde."

Barcelona made the decision to move on from Valverde following their loss to Atletico Madrid in the semi-final of the Spanish Super Cup, which Real went on to win.

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In terms of titles won, there's a case to be made for Valverde's sacking being harsh. He won La Liga in his only two full seasons with Barca.

Per Spanish football journalist Richard Martin, the only coach to have masterminded a win at the Camp Nou against Valverde was the man who has replaced him:

After the change in manager, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu outlined why he felt a change was necessary:

Setien is a man whose style is better aligned with the classic principles of the club. During his time with Las Palmas and Real Betis, the Spaniard set his teams up to play expansive and attacking football, resulting in his sides frequently being involved in entertaining games.

Taking over a club like Barcelona represents a huge step up for the 61-year-old, although it's clear from what he's had to say about the Blaugrana previously that he has huge admiration for the club:

At the moment, it's difficult to say whether Barcelona or Real Madrid are the most likely winners of La Liga. Zidane is beginning to get a tune out of his team, though, and they look more capable of grinding out results when things aren't necessarily going their way.

Barcelona are likely to play the more eye-catching football between now and the end of the campaign under Setien, which will give supporters a lift after Valverde's pragmatic approach. Whether that shift in style leads to silverware remains to be seen.