Valverde insists he is 'not worried' about Barcelona future

By Sports Desk November 08, 2019

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde insists he is not worried about his future at the club.

A 3-1 LaLiga defeat at Levante last Saturday was followed by a 0-0 draw with Slavia Prague at Camp Nou in the Champions League, in which home fans made their frustrations clear with whistles from the stands.

Barca sit top of LaLiga after 11 matches but criticism is nonetheless mounting on Valverde, who appeared close to the sack at the end of last season but was given support by president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Valverde says he still feels he has the backing of the board and that he is not concerned about his position, especially since Barca had previously been on a seven-game winning run in all competitions.

"I'm not worried about my future," he told reporters on Friday. "The other day I had dinner [with Bartomeu]. I feel supported and respected.

"Whether you understand [the criticism] or not, it's how it is. I don't have much to say.

"If we'd scored a goal [against Slavia], everyone would be more calm. It's how it is. You have to accept things as they come.

"A week ago, we were on the highway, we had seven wins in a row. Now, we'll see."

Barca host Celta Vigo on Saturday in their final match before the international break.

Oscar Garcia's side are on a poor run of their own, having lost five of their past six league games, with just two goals scored in that run.

Despite a relative lack of preparation time for the match at Camp Nou, Valverde is determined to get his team back to winning ways.

"We need a win," Valverde admits. "We lost a game in six minutes [at Levante]. We need to get back on the path of taking three points because we need them and because we know what it means for this team to lose.

"We're motivated and we know how difficult a game it will be.

"We prepared for Slavia in two training sessions because we didn't have any more. It's normally like that for the whole season. There are two game days, four to prepare for the games – that seems normal to me."

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    Griezmann has failed to find his best form in Catalonia since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid in a €120million transfer during the close season.

    The 28-year-old has been used predominantly in a wide role and has four goals in 15 matches in all competitions, failing to find the net in his past five outings.

    However, Lenglet - also a colleague at international level with France - believes Griezmann is still learning to adapt to a new style of play following five seasons under Diego Simeone at Atleti.

    "It's not simple to fit in at a club like Barcelona," Lenglet told a news conference on Tuesday. "Some players are already there and have a history together.

    "Like in the French national team, there is a very specific way of playing - how we're positioned is different than what Antoine knew at Atletico, where he was starting from far back.

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    "At Barcelona, we're trying to recover the ball as high as possible on the pitch with a lot of efforts on 20 to 30 metre runs. With Atletico, it was a bit different, they were falling back, and it was 50 to 60 metre runs. So you have to learn that, you need time. 

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    Asked if Griezmann performs differently for his country, speaking ahead of Euro 2020 qualifiers against Moldova and Albania, Lenglet added: "'Different' is a big word, but when he's with the national team, he's having a lot of fun.

    "He's been there for a long time, he played a few big tournaments with the team, and he won a really beautiful one. Of course, he knows this place very well, he's very happy to be here, he has a strong history with the team. 

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    Griezmann admitted last month he had found it "difficult" connecting with Barca superstar Lionel Messi as neither of them are naturally big talkers.

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    "[Messi] is very clam, very relaxed, very normal," he said. "When you arrive at Barcelona, you're careful about what you're doing but it's not Leo who's coming over to tell you off when you make a mistake. 

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    Neymar v Nelson Semedo

    Neymar's world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain dominated Barcelona's preparation for the 2017-18 season, and all was not well on the training ground in the weeks leading up to the €222million switch.

    Recent arrival Nelson Semedo became involved in a skirmish with the wantaway star in what proved to be an unseemly coda to his time at Camp Nou.

    "I just arrived and one of the most important players in the team got in a fight with me," Semedo told Sport five months on from the July 2017 fracas. "It annoyed me at the time, but I also understood he was in a difficult moment, he wanted to leave."

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Oguchi Onyewu

    Never a shrinking violet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic boasts a career of confrontation in football. The taekwondo black-belt seemingly came close to meeting his match in USA defender Oguchi Onyewu when both played for AC Milan.

    "I head-butted him, and we flew at each other," Ibrahimovic wrote in his autobiography. "We wanted to tear each other limb from limb. It was brutal. We were rolling around, punching and kneeing each other. We were crazy and furious – it was like life and death.

    David Beckham v Alex Ferguson

    Many a Manchester United player felt the heat of Alex Ferguson's infamous 'hairdryer' during the Scot's historic Old Trafford reign but – as far as we're aware – his ferocious words never actually drew blood.

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    "He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him and, as I approached, I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye," Ferguson explained. The resulting cut and butterfly plaster predictably dominated as the UK tabloids gorged on the fallout. 

    Mario Balotelli v Micah Richards

    Mario Balotelli was rarely far away from behind-the-scenes controversy at Manchester City, allegedly throwing darts at youth team players and once even grappling with his manager and mentor Roberto Mancini.

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    "We were playing five-a-side and we were losing because he didn't work, which is evident,' Micah Richards told Sky quiz show 'A League of Their Own' in 2016. "He swore at me in Italian and he thought I didn't understand. But I know a bit of Italian lingo, so I said, 'Who you talking to?' He said it again, so we squared up and I offered him out. But he said no."

    Craig Bellamy v John Arne Riise

    Balotelli's arrival at City in August 2010 came around the same time as Craig Bellamy was tying up a loan move to Cardiff City, leaving us all to wonder what might have happened had the combustible duo shared a dressing room for any period of time. John Arne Riise, perhaps, has a fair idea.

    In an infamous incident before a Champions League game at Barcelona in 2007, where both players went on to score in a Liverpool win, Riise drew Bellamy's terrifying wrath when he refused demands to sing karaoke on a team night out.

    Later on, Riise found an unexpected visitor in his hotel room. "Craig Bellamy at the foot of my bed with a golf club in his hands," he reported in his autobiography. According to the Norway full-back's version of events, he managed to avoid Bellamy striking his shins by jumping out of bed but took blows to his hip and thigh.

    Aboubakar Kamara v Aleksandar Mitrovic

    While the risks of a rowdy team karaoke session might seem obvious in hindsight, sometimes even yoga isn't safe.

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    Alan Shearer v Keith Gillespie

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    "We ended up going outside, and I took one swing and missed, and he hit me - and that was goodnight," Gillespie told talkSPORT of the scrap during a 1997 team trip to Dublin. "I did actually spend a night in hospital. Because when he hit me, I fell and hit my head on a plant pot. I was unconscious."

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    Stig Tofting v Jasper Gronkjaer

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    The former Sevilla star has been linked with a possible January move, with Juventus, Inter and AC Milan among the clubs said to be interested.

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