Bartomeu claims respect for Valverde despite unseemly Barca exit

By Sports Desk January 14, 2020

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu does not believe axed head coach Ernesto Valverde was treated unfairly despite admitting holding discussions with several prospective replacements while he was still in his post.

Barca unveiled ex-Real Betis boss Quique Setien as Valverde's successor on Tuesday, concluding a tumultuous few days at Camp Nou.

Valverde parted ways with the club amid mounting pressure on the back of last week's Supercopa de Espana defeat to Atletico Madrid, even though he won LaLiga in both his completed seasons at the helm and sat joint top alongside Real Madrid this time around.

"Last year there were a lot of requests for him to not continue and I personally always believed in him," Bartomeu said of Valverde, speaking alongside Setien at a news conference.

"I liked how he was as a person, as a coach, he had the confidence of the club. We decided to continue with him in this project.

"The only thing is, as I said before, in recent weeks there was a dynamic [that was] not very good, it wasn't new to him. It's a collective job – we spoke to find solutions and after speaking we decided a few days ago the best thing for a boost to the team was a change in coach, that allows us to handle the second half of the season on a high.

"We're doing well in the league and champions league, I like what Ernesto Valverde did a lot, but it was the moment to make the change for a boost.

"I want to thank Ernesto. He is a great person with great values. We're friends with him, we had a great relationship with him and a lot of respect for him."

News broke over the weekend that Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal held talks with his old team-mate Xavi over replacing Valverde.

Xavi remains with Qatari club Al Sadd, although Bartomeu suggested Barca's search for a new coach went beyond the club great and Setien.

"Abidal has been in touch with everyone talking about future and plans and he will explain what's gone on, without names," he said.

"No names bar one has come up and been public, because that's not our style. He's been working to find coaches and speaking with them.

"He's brought Setien, who we like very much."

Abidal himself added: "I'm not going to just talk about Xavi. When it comes to taking decisions, the board knows that answers are needed. Every manager has his DNA and decisions. They're all different.

"Setien is here because we like his way of working and his style. It's something we like, and in football we know a lot can change, but we have full confidence in the coach and the staff.

"From what I've seen in first day of training, there's a lot of changes. I think we can reach our objectives with him. I respect all the coaches I spoke to, but we had to take a decision and I think the perfect coach for us is Setien."

Related items

  • Hertha Berlin 0-4 Bayern Munich: Second-half show sends Flick's men up to second Hertha Berlin 0-4 Bayern Munich: Second-half show sends Flick's men up to second

    Bayern Munich produced a much-improved second-half showing to overcome Hertha Berlin 4-0 at the Olympiastadion and climb into second place in the Bundesliga.

    Hertha entered Sunday's game unbeaten in four matches, keeping a clean sheet in three of those, and they held firm until the hour mark on Sunday when Thomas Muller opened the scoring.

    Robert Lewandowski added another goal to his tally from the penalty spot and Thiago Alcantara scored a thunderous third as the reigning champions turned on the style in the capital.

    A fourth top-flight win in a row was rounded off by Ivan Perisic's late header as Hansi Flick's men recorded back-to-back away league wins for the first time since March and leapfrogged Borussia Monchengladbach into second spot, four points behind RB Leipzig.

    Lewandowski squandered a big chance to put Bayern ahead after 25 minutes, the Poland international poking wide when put under pressure by Rune Jarstein.

    The Hertha goalkeeper was equal to Lewandowski's next attempt and also easily dealt with weak efforts from Philippe Coutinho and Perisic in a goalless first half.

    Perisic twice went close early in the second half and played a big part in Bayern's eventual breakthrough, climbing highest to head Leon Goretzka's cross into the path of Muller, who rifled home on the half-volley.

    Bayern were denied an instant second by VAR, with Lewandowski adjudged to have headed the ball out of Jarstein's hands before tapping it over the line.

    However, Lewandowski did manage to double his side's tally with 17 minutes remaining, converting from the penalty spot after Lukas Klunter pulled Goretzka back in the box.

    Thiago picked out the top corner to put Bayern out of sight after finding a pocket of space and Perisic rounded off an ultimately emphatic win with a back-post header.

  • Lecce 1-1 Inter: Second straight Serie A draw frustrates Nerazzurri Lecce 1-1 Inter: Second straight Serie A draw frustrates Nerazzurri

    Inter were held for the second consecutive Serie A match as a 1-1 draw at Lecce handed reigning champions Juventus an unexpected boost in the title race.

    Antonio Conte's men started 2020 with an impressive defeat of Napoli, but they only took a point against Atalanta last week and again failed to register a victory on Sunday.

    It had briefly appeared as though 20-year-old defender Alessandro Bastoni would prove the unlikely hero when he headed in the opener - his first goal for the club - three minutes after arriving from the bench.

    However, Lecce captain Marco Mancosu steered past Samir Handanovic with 13 minutes remaining, meaning Juve can go four points clear at the summit by beating Parma later in the day.

    Inter made a bright start but Mancosu was guilty of a glaring miss with seven minutes on the clock, blazing over after reaching Khouma Babacar's stooping header uncontested at the far post.

    The busy Romelu Lukaku saw an opener ruled out for a foul and then teed up Marcelo Brozovic, whose curling effort wrongfooted Gabriel but bounced away off the right-hand post.

    Lecce were frustrated in the final moments of the first half when a penalty decision in their favour was overturned, referee Piero Giacomelli visiting the pitchside monitor before deciding Stefano Sensi's arm was in a natural position at his side as he handled in the area.

    An open, entertaining spell following the interval was punctuated only by routine stops at either end and Inter were slow to reclaim full control of the contest.

    But Diego Godin was replaced by Bastoni 22 minutes from time and the new man directed a header from Cristiano Biraghi's left-wing cross inside the near post.

    Lecce's response was strong, however, and Mancosu got in front of Bastoni to finish coolly from substitute Zan Majer's delivery.

    Filippo Falco - another introduction from the bench - could have stolen all three points, but his 81st-minute free-kick hit the outside of the post.

     

    What does it mean? Standards slipping for Inter

    Inter won 14 of their first 18 Serie A games this season but have now drawn two in a row. While there was certainly no shame in coming up short against Atalanta, victory was expected here. The Nerazzurri struggled to break down Lecce, and perhaps Conte will look to the transfer market for creative inspiration - potentially in the form of Christian Eriksen.

    Babacar battles

    The Lecce striker failed to add to his Serie A tally of four goals against Inter - his joint-best such record in the competition - but worked manfully up front, having a hand in several of the hosts' best moments.

    Martinez muted

    Lautaro Martinez has formed one half of one of the most exciting, effective strike partnerships in European football this season, but this was not his day. The Argentina forward had little say in proceedings early on, and belated efforts in the second period came from distance and scarcely troubled Gabriel.

    What's next?

    There is a clear week for both sides before Serie A action continues next weekend. Inter host Cagliari on Sunday shortly before Lecce visit Hellas Verona.

  • Ibrahimovic has raised Milan's level - Pioli Ibrahimovic has raised Milan's level - Pioli

    Stefano Pioli said the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has "raised the level of training" at Milan, who are unbeaten in three Serie A matches with the 38-year-old striker involved.

    The Rossoneri on Sunday beat Udinese 3-2 in an entertaining encounter at San Siro, where an error by Gianluigi Donnarumma allowed the visitors to take the lead after six minutes through Jens Stryger Larsen.

    Second-half strikes from Ante Rebic and Theo Hernandez turned the game on its head before Kevin Lasagna's 85th-minute equaliser.

    There was one final twist, though, as Rebic won it deep into stoppage time and Pioli revelled in a third successive victory, but warned Milan have plenty of room for improvement.

    "I have to congratulate my players on their performance against the team that caused us a lot of problems," the Milan boss told DAZN.

    "We still have to work a lot, because today we showed our quality but there were also moments of relaxation where we exposed to rival blows."

    He added: "I asked my players that this week would be perfect and we succeeded, although it was hard.

    "This should teach us that the match never ends. We will still work on efficiency."

    Ante Rebić's first Rossonero brace and Theo's stunner clinch the win against Udinese Read more https://t.co/eo7djPvp3V

    La prima doppietta rossonera di Rebić e la magia di Theo decidono #MilanUdinese  Scopri di più https://t.co/iY1DYC4enn#SempreMilan pic.twitter.com/B2LleqOJ2y

    — AC Milan (@acmilan) January 19, 2020

    Ibrahimovic played the full 90 minutes and Pioli was full of praise for the veteran striker's performance, as well as that of Rebic after he scored three minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute and struck again at the death.

    "Ibra is an added value in our daily work," Pioli said of Ibrahimovic. "He raised the level of training.

    "Rebic has been hoping for more opportunities, he always trains well, and after Christmas he returned very determined and willing.

    "Everyone who wants to help the team will be given chances."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.