Barcelona to name new boss as book closes on Bilbao boss

Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona are ready to reveal the identity of the head coach chosen to succeed Luis Enrique at the Nou Camp – with Ernesto Valverde to be handed the reins.

The Catalans’ 4-2 victory over Eibar on Sunday night was not enough to stop Real Madrid winning the title for the first time since 2012 as they claimed the positive result they needed by beating Malaga 2-0.

But shortly after full-time, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu gave fans some cause to be optimistic about the future by tweeting: “On Monday 29 May we will announce the new coach.”

The confirmation will arrive two days after the team’s Copa del Rey final meeting with Alaves on Saturday.

Athletic Bilbao boss Valverde is the frontrunner to take the reins from Enrique, who after three largely successful campaigns has decided to move on.

Some bookmakers are reported to have stopped taking bets on Valverde taking the position.

Everton manager Ronald Koeman, former Paris St Germain boss Laurent Blanc and Oscar Garcia of Red Bull Salzburg have also been linked, while in recent weeks other potential candidates including Jorge Sampaoli, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino have ruled themselves out.

Barca’s concession of a championship they had won three times in the previous four years will likely create anxiety about the futures of top players, too.

To that end Bartomeu moved to dispel any fears that star striker Lionel Messi could now opt to depart.

“There’s no doubt that the marriage between Messi and Barca will continue,” tweeted the president.

Enrique, who watched Messi score twice in Sunday’s comeback victory, with Luis Suarez and a David Junca own goal helping turn the game on its head despite Takashi Inui’s goals, was philosophical.

Following his final league game on the Barca bench he told the club website: “The team showed their ability to fight back when faced with difficulties.

“I cannot blame the players for anything, they fought to the very last moment and we did not surrender. We congratulate the champions.”

Thanking the supporters before turning his attention to the cup final, the former Barca midfielder added: “I’m happy and more than satisfied after all the years I have spent at this club.

“We are prepared for anything. It will be a difficult final against one of the surprise packages of the season. I’m sure it will be a great match.”


Iniesta reaction

Veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta said: “It was a bittersweet victory.

“We wanted to win all our remaining games, but they (Real) were a little better than us.

“Not being able to rely totally on ourselves has been a handicap.

“We cannot think about anything other than ending the season in the best way possible.”

Eibar coach Jose Luis Mendilibar, whose side end the season in 10th place, said: “For an hour we had the upper hand but towards the end we became tired.

“Seeing as we’re one of the more ordinary clubs, this has been a sensational season.”