Real Madrid draw the beginning of the end for Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona

Ben Hayward
AFP via Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde's Barcelona tenure started and ended with defeat in the Spanish Supercopa.

After a 5-1 aggregate loss to Real Madrid over two games in August 2017, the signs were not positive. Defender Gerard Pique admitted that, for the first time in his Barca career, Los Blancos had been superior. It was a wake-up call for the Blaugrana.

But Barca did wake up. Valverde never lost another Clasico and even amid complaints of Champions League collapses and dreary football, the Catalans continued to dominate in the famous fixture.

Highlights included a 5-1 win which sentenced Julen Lopetegui to the sack in October last year and two 3-0 victories at the Bernabeu – one in LaLiga and another in the Copa del Rey. But December's game changed everything.

While it was the 3-2 loss to Atletico in the Supercopa last Sunday which finally convinced Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to pull the trigger, the writing had been on the wall for Valverde since the Clasico on December 18.

The game ended goalless, but Madrid were the better team on the night and Valverde had little response as Zinedine Zidane's side pressed high and controlled the match.

Alongside Real president Florentino Perez in the VIP seating at Camp Nou, Bartomeu was said to be furious. And as violent protestors burnt containers outside the ground following clashes with the police, Valverde's Barca career was also up in smoke.

The 55-year-old made it to the end of the year and remained in charge at the start of 2020, but another disappointing draw in the derby at Espanyol left Barca and Bartomeu angry again. And the Supercopa proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back.

In the meantime, Bartomeu had been negotiating with other coaches and even though some speculated that the embarrassment of the boos from Saudi fans aimed at Valverde had been the detonator for the president, it was the Clasico which saw the club chief put the wheels in motion for a change on the bench.

With the world watching, Bartomeu felt Barca had been shown up at home against their fiercest rivals and for Valverde, things would never be the same again.

The change finally arrived on Monday as Valverde was sacked and Quique Setien appointed in his place. And the new man will face a significant early examination in the next Clasico, which takes place at the Bernabeu on March 1.

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