Valverde out, Xavi in? Spanish media react to Barcelona crisis
Defending champions lie eighth in La Liga after shock 2-0 loss at Granada
If you think Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is having a tough time of it, then also spare a thought for FC Barcelona and their beleaguered boss Ernesto Valverde.
While United and Solskjaer are struggling in the English Premier League, over in Spain Valverde’s Barcelona have also had a poor start to the season.
Defending champions Barca are currently eighth in the La Liga table with a record of two wins, one draw and two defeats from their opening five matches.
Their latest defeat - 2-0 on Saturday away at Granada - has sparked fury among Barca fans and left the Spanish press questioning the future of head coach Valverde.
The 55-year-old former Valencia and Athletic Bilbao manager was appointed Barcelona boss in May 2017, replacing Luis Enrique.
He led the Catalans to the La Liga title last season, but suffered a 4-0 hammering at Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final. A shock result which saw the English side progress to the European final 4-3 on aggregate.
The Anfield hangover and an early-season injury to star player Lionel Messi has seen Barca stutter at the start of the 2019-20 league campaign. They were also held to a goalless draw by Borussia Dortmund in the opening game of the Champions League group stage.
So after the Granada debacle, what’s next for Valverde? Can he survive the chop?
We look at the how the Spanish press and Barcelona fans have reacted to the latest setback at the Camp Nou...
‘Granada must be a turning point’
“Barca, it’s time to react NOW!” says Catalan newspaper Sport on its website on Monday morning, following the club’s worst start to a La Liga season for 25 years.
Sport writer Toni Frieros says that while Valverde must “reflect” and “analyse” the poor situation - especially when playing away - it’s also down to the squad to improve their performances on the pitch.
Frieros writes: “Today, it is also obvious that there are many players performing below their level. It is Valverde’s responsibility to know how to recover them so that they can do their best again.
“From the bench, during the games, he has not known how to do it. It is not about shouting, but motivating. Granada must be a turning point.”
While Frieros believes that the coach and players must work to improve their displays on the pitch, AS.com claims that some of the Barca stars are losing confidence in their head coach. Valverde is “facing a big week” at the Camp Nou, AS reports, with a home game on Tuesday against Villarreal followed by a trip to Getafe on Saturday.
AS reporter Juan Jiménez says that after their Champions League capitulations against Roma in 2018 and against Liverpool last season, Valverde is facing a third crisis since being in charge.
Should the poor form continue then Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu could be forced into making a decision.
“Barcelona played without soul on Saturday night and there has been too many bad news stories to start the season,” said Jiménez.
“He [Valverde] is a smart man with some good work done at the club. But it’s his third crisis in three years and this one might last longer than the last two unless Bartomeu makes a decision.”
In the 2-0 defeat to newly-promoted Granada Barcelona only had two shots on target and are now without a win in their past eight away games in all competitions.
Valverde admitted that he was “worried” by his team’s away form. He said: “Away from home we are not getting good results and when that happens a few times, like now, it’s a symptom of not [playing] very well. We are not playing good games.”
Striker Luis Suarez also admitted that it’s going to be a tough season for the club. The Uruguayan star told AS: “It’s a worrying defeat, a defeat that hurts. And a defeat that we have to take a real good look at, because there are lots of things that we have to improve.
“What we have to look at is the way we’re performing on the road, because the lack of cutting edge and chances is worrying. We’re Barça, we have to go out there to win the game; we can’t start the way we did.”
On defending their title Suarez added: “There’s a long way to go yet, but these are the types of games that win you the title. We have to be tougher if we’re going to win the league. We have a tough year ahead of us.”
During the defeat to Granada - and after the match - Barcelona fans did not hold back from making their feelings known on social media.
Barca’s official Twitter account tweeted “we fall, and we get back up”, but fans were vicious in their responses.
Xavi to return?
According to Spanish news outlet Diario Gol current captain Messi “has asked” the board to replace Valverde with club legend Xavi, who has been touted as a potential future head coach at the Camp Nou.
The 39-year-old Xavi said: “It wouldn’t be a problem [to manage former team-mates]. I know what Leo is like, and Luis, [Sergio] Busquets, Jordi [Alba], [Gerard] Pique or Sergi [Roberto].
“I know how they train, their capacity for leadership, I can tell if they are sad or angry. I hope as a coach I could have three, five, eight or 10 players that I already knew and that I already had a good relationship with.
“[Messi] is a player who, if you convince him, he can even be a brilliant defender. He has physical and mental speed. He has everything. If you convince him to run, what will the others do? They will run twice as much.”
Next Barca boss betting odds
Bookmaker Paddy Power ranks Xavi as third favourite to become Barcelona’s next permanent manager.
Belgium boss Roberto Martinez and former Barca and Spain head coach Luis Enrique are the two favourites should Valverde get sacked.
Last week it was also reported that Liverpool chief Jurgen Klopp could be a contender.
- Roberto Martinez: 5/2
- Luis Enrique: 5/1
- Xavi Hernandez: 6/1
- Massimiliano Allegri: 13/2
- Ronald Koeman: 7/1
- Mauricio Pochettino: 12/1
- Quique Setien: 16/1
- Erik ten Hag: 20/1
- Nuno Espirito Santo: 25/1
- Pep Guardiola: 25/1
- Jose Mourinho: 33/1