surinenglish

The inquest begins

Georginio Wijnaldum levels the aggregate score.
Georginio Wijnaldum levels the aggregate score. / EFE
  • A LOOK AT LA LIGA

  • Ernesto Valverde is the man in the firing line following Barcelona's spectacular Champions League capitulation against Liverpool on Tuesday

At almost any club in Europe clinching the double-double would ensure you a footballing sainthood; at Barcelona it may get you the sack!

It's feasible that Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino could finish the season without a trophy to show for their perceived genius. Pep Guardiola hasn't delivered the cherished Champions League trophy and Zinedine Zidane is overseeing a 'work in progress'. Yet, all the above have complete job security.

At FC Barcelona, the president says "it's time to reflect" and that can only be bad news for Ernesto Valverde. The blame culture has spread to Catalonia and the manager is the victim who is expected to be sacrificed.

It doesn't matter that he won La Liga in 2018, a distinctive 14 points ahead of the European champions Real Madrid. It doesn't matter that they swept Valencia aside in the final of the Copa del Rey. It doesn't matter that he's retained the title with a month to spare and the team are favourites to also retain the cup. Someone must be blamed.

Fans, directors and journalists don't look at the bigger picture; they focus on the microcosm. A potential sacking guarantees a headline and clickbait in modern media. Barcelona have self-imploded for the second year in a row despite a three-goal lead in the first leg of a crucial game in the Champions League.

And so, the inquest begins. The instant verdict is 'sack the manager!'

The problems raised at Barcelona run deeper than the man who motivates the millionaires and scribbles on a tactics board.

Valverde isn't the man who sanctioned selling Neymar and reinvesting the money into Ousmane Dembélé and Philippe Coutinho.

He isn't to blame for the lack of youth players making the first team.

Sergi Roberto was the last player to graduate from the famed La Masia academy. It's eight years since he made his Liga debut and although many have tried, not one home-educated player has established himself in the first team. It's a bit like Manchester United's 'Class of 92'. After golden harvest came the barren years.

He doesn't have the power to insist on significant signings. I very much doubt that when he asked for a back-up striker in the winter, he expected Kevin Prince Boateng would be recruited.

If Valverde suggested the signing of Boateng and the young Brazilian Malcolm, he should be scripting his resignation. If Valverde is refusing to bring through the youth players, he should go. If Valverde is working with what he's been given, he should be given respect as he's on the verge of the double-double.

Yes, it's true Valverde may have made tactical errors or failed to motivate the changing room crammed with egos. He doesn't have the charisma of Klopp or Guardiola.

There are similarities to Bobby Robson's spell in charge. He won the European Cup Winners Cup and Copa del Rey yet was replaced, effectively because he wasn't Johan Cruyff.

"This stadium holds the population of Ipswich," he once told me when I spent a day in his life back in 1997. "And by midnight they will all be calling for my head." He was right. They convincingly beat Extremadura that evening yet the white hankies were out in force.

The detractors will probably get their wish to change the man on the touchline. He can leave with his head held high and the dilemma of lack of youth players, unwise signings and unreal expectations to the next man.