Madrid: The fate of Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde hangs in the balance with the club’s board scheduled to meet at 1300 GMT Monday to discuss his future.
From the club’s open pursuit of former midfielder Xavi Hernandez it seemed that Valverde’s fate is sealed. However, Xavi only indicated openness to coaching Barca in future and renewed his commitment to his present employers, Al-Sadd of Qatar.
Ernesto Valverde took training on Monday morning, arriving two hours early at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.
If the decision is to remove Valverde straightaway, Barca could install a temporary replacement like B team coach Francisco Javier Garcia Pimienta, perhaps with a view to appointing Xavi at the end of the season.
Otherwise, former Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino is a viable option, despite his previous claims he would never coach Barcelona due to his past connections with rivals Espanyol.
Ex-Real Betis coach Quique Setien, renowned for an attractive, attacking style of play, is out of work and has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.
Marca reported that after Xavi turned down the offer, Barcelona turned to the Dutch national coach Ronald Koeman, a former defender for the Blaugrana, who too rejected the chance to move to the Camp Nou right now. Koeman is said to be keen to lead the Netherlands in the European Championships.
However, Marca said “the pursuits of Xavi and Koeman suggest that Barcelona have already made their decision over Valverde's future.”
Barcelona's open hankering after Xavi has left a bitter taste, particularly with those who believe Valverde, who always speaks with sense and integrity, deserves better.
“I feel bad for Valverde, he doesn't deserve this treatment,” former Barcelona coach, and current Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola said on Sunday. “I hope the situation can be resolved soon."
Barcelona sit top of La Liga, level on points with Real Madrid, and they face Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League next month, after sailing through top of their group.
Yet scepticism around Valverde's suitability has long been building, with every loss prompting renewed speculation about his future. Underpinning the doubts are Barca's last two exits from the Champions League, after the team followed an incredible collapse against Roma in 2018 with a remarkably similar capitulation against Liverpool last year.
Given the obsession with bolstering their record in Europe, many were surprised the club did not opt for a fresh start last summer, even if Valverde's domestic record has been excellent.
In his two completed seasons, Barca have won two La Liga titles, as well as the Copa del Rey in 2018, and another league title remains very much in sight this term, despite second-placed Madrid's impressive form in recent weeks.
But Barcelona's performances have been unconvincing--they have drawn three of their last four league games--and the flaws in the Spanish Super Cup semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid on Thursday, in which they conceded two late goals, felt all too familiar.