On Saturday evening, Ernesto Valverde became only the sixth coach in Barcelona’s history to win the La Liga title in both of his first two seasons in the hot-seat.

Enrique Fernandez, Helenio Herrera, Louis Van Gaal, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique are the only coaches to have managed the feat before him.

The quiet man of the sextet, Valverde’s record certainly stands up to scrutiny even if his style of play is more pragmatic than edge-of-the-seat exciting.

There’s no doubt that with the latter in mind, the Basque has never really been given the credit that he deserves. Well, that and a disastrous night in Rome a year or so ago.

Valverde has never been allowed to forget Barcelona’s Champions League collapse against the Italians, despite the fact that he’s only lost three league games in his two seasons thus far.

Not only that, his team have been beaten just nine times in all competitions during his tenure, some of which were cup ties which were turned around in the second legs.

He’s also guided his men into a second successive Copa Del Rey final which, if the Catalans were to win against a Valencia side celebrating their centenary year, would mean that they’ll become the first club ever to have taken the title on five successive occasions.

The Champions League semi-final against Liverpool looms largest at this point, but even if the Blaugrana weren’t able to overcome Jurgen Klopp’s swashbucklers, that’s not a true reflection of his managerial skills.

It’s often said that a team should be judged over the course of a season, so that logic should obviously apply to the coach too.

Valverde can have done no more, save for being more ‘Cruyffista’ in his tactical outlook rather than always taking a ‘safety first’ approach.

He’s been exemplary in the way in which he has managed his squad, dealt with the media and his general demeanour. His values evidently match those of the club he works for and that mustn’t be overlooked.

For example, consider his tone and actions compared to, say, Jose Mourinho at Man Utd (or any other of his clubs for that matter) – there’s no comparison. Barca have always been ‘more than a club’ and Valverde embodies that ethos.

It’s why he quickly won the respect of players who’d been there and done it all before too.

Respect breeds respect and all that.

So… now it’s time for an increasingly demanding fan-base to give Valverde the respect he’s earned and rightly due.

 

Listen to the latest Eye On LaLiga podcast with Oliver Wilson and Jason Pettigrove: Barca’a Boring Title?

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