surinenglish

A LOOK AT LA LIGA

The Valverde Appreciation Society

Valverde (r) with Luis Suárez (l) and Lionel Messi (c).
Valverde (r) with Luis Suárez (l) and Lionel Messi (c). / AFP
  • The FC Barcelona coach has dealt with every issue he's faced with calmness and distinction, yet still doesn't get much recognition

The Ernesto Valverde Appreciation Society is an exclusive club, but membership should be growing rapidly.

The problem is that he looks more like a bank manager than a football manager; he's careful and considered rather than controversial and dramatic.

Actually, after my dealings with some of the charlatans who head up the banks here in Spain, forget the comparison to a bank manager; unlike them I'd trust Valverde with my last peseta.

He's what used to be called a "Míster" in Spanish football after gentlemen coaches were imported from England. The legendary Fred Pentland used to sport a bowler hat. Maybe that's what the Barcelona manager needs to give him some individuality and recognition?

His achievements at the Camp Nou are chronically unchronicled. Every single article you research on him mentions Pep Guardiola. Damn, even I've done it!

Many say that managing Barcelona is easy. They used to say that about Manchester United and Real Madrid and look at the mess they're in after appointing the wrong men in recent years.

Valverde took over at a time when Gerard Piqué was declaring that he felt the club was becoming inferior to Real Madrid. He lost one of the world's great talents in Neymar and had to handle the furore that surrounded the saga. He's overseen the end of the Andrés Iniesta era. He's controlled all of these issues with calmness and distinction.

In short, he has micro managed testing situations and emerged with great success. Last season they walked La Liga and claimed the Copa. This season the title is just about tied up, the club are in the cup final again and have one foot in the Champions League semi-final.

This week he became the first Barcelona manager to celebrate a victory at Old Trafford. Not one headline has been about Valverde. He remains in the background unruffled, suit uncreased.

He's got Messi, say the detractors. This is true but Manchester United have Paul Pogba, Real have Gareth Bale and Paris Saint Germain have Neymar. None of those players have been bossed. Messi runs the show on the pitch, but Valverde runs the circus.

This week alone Barcelona have seen off their nearest rivals Atlético Madrid and dominated Manchester United. The English club didn't register a single shot on goal. That doesn't come down to Messi's magnificence, it comes down to organisation of outstanding players and their egos.

Remarkably some fans still criticise Valverde and the newspapers yearn someone who will give them more meat to chew on. For them, Valverde is too controlled and organised.

He's not the charming Johan Cruyff or the darling who departed to Munich and then Manchester (see I avoided mentioning him again). It could be that he needs to win the Champions League to receive true recognition.

He's sensible, measured, considered and his work pays dividends. If he ever leaves Barcelona, he can take over my shambolic local bank branch!