Ernesto Valverde was officially presented as Barcelona’s new manager on Thursday.
It is something of a homecoming for the ex-Athletic Bilbao coach, who played as a forward for Barcelona between 1988 and 1990 under Johan Cruyff and is one of many of the Dutchman’s former pupils to have turned to coaching upon retiring from playing.
Valverde, 53, joins the La Liga runners-up on a two-year contract with the option of a third.
“I feel great responsibility for this club as I have to respond to so many people,” Valverde told reporters.
Valverde will be thrown in at the deep end with his first competitive game in charge being against Barca’s arch-rivals and La Liga champions Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the Nou Camp in August.
He replaces Luis Enrique who led the club to nine trophies. Despite this record and the talents of superstar Lionel Messi, Valverde faces a huge task to rejuvenate a side showing signs of decline.
Valverde said he believes more is to come from Messi, as he spoke of his excitement at working closely with the Argentine.
“I still haven’t met him but I feel very lucky and it will be a unique experience, he’s the best player I’ve ever seen on a football pitch,” Valverde told a news conference on Thursday.
“Whenever it looks like he has reached his peak the next day he surprises you even more. I hope I can help him in any way possible and that I’ll enjoy the experience.”