After an inauspicious start, the Spanish manager seems to have changed the Catalan clubs fortunes with a five match winning run in all competitions.
It was Ernesto Valverde’s previous employers who put his future at the risk. Athletic Bilbao secured an important 1-0 victory over Barcelona thanks to an 89th minute Aritz Aduriz goal. Question marks over the Spanish manager’s future at Camp Nou have not subsided ever since.
Barcelona’s hapless away defeat to the spirited Granada did not help. And it seemed the final nail in the coffin was hammered by Levante who won 3-1 in Estadi Ciutat de Valencia. The following 0-0 away draw against Slavia Prague put the media in full frenzy.
Marcelo Gallardo’s future was put in the air. But the Argentine move away citing his focus primarily laid with River Plate’s Copa Libertadores campaign.
Mauricio Pochettino was linked with the job. The then Tottenham manager did not want the Camp Nou hot seat given his time with city rivals Espanyol.
Every top manager was linked and it would not come as a surprise as enemy number 1, Jose Mourinho was linked by some publication somewhere.
Valverde had to go. The announcement would surely be made any time soon. But it never came. A month forward and the Spaniard is still managing Barcelona’s assembly of global superstars.
The soft run of fixtures which included match-ups with Celta de Vigo, Cartagena, and Leganes were easily negotiated. So have been tough games against Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid.
Valverde has ensured Barcelona are top of La Liga and secured UEFA Champions League knockout rounds qualification top of their group.
The storm has been weathered but the air of inevitability remains.
The noose would have tightened had Ter Stegen not kept Atletico at bay. It was only a Messi master class that ensured the three points were secured. And it is because of this reason that Valverde’s future hangs in balance.
More than meets the eye
Barcelona have soldiered on but there are major chinks in their armor. Valverde has done little to plug those gaps. An inform Atletico would have taken them apart but their league woes are well documented.
And it is because of these lingering issues that questions about Valverde’s future continue to rise.
The Spanish manager has won the league in successive seasons but he had a team who would have won it on auto-pilot. The Caceres native was supposed to integrate their expensive exports he has failed to do so. Coutinho is out of the Camp Nou, while Dembele is struggling alongside Griezmann.
His task was to wrestle European glory but under him Barcelona have capitulated in successive seasons.
In Catalonia, perfection and nothing less is expected. And with Lionel Messi amongst their ranks, failure on the pitch is not up for discussion.
Valverde has his job for now but it wont be for long.