Cup defeat leaves Barcelona with questions about identity and coach

BARCELONA: The backing from Barcelona’s membership president Josep Maria Bartomeu got here nevertheless it was not as convincing as earlier than.

Final week he stated coach Ernesto Valverde was “trusted utterly” however as Valencia’s gamers danced on the pitch on the Estadio Benito Villamarin, tossing the Copa del Rey between them, his assist felt extra reserved.

“Ernesto has a contract for subsequent season,” Bartomeu stated. “He’s the coach. I don’t suppose this defeat is his fault.”

When requested about Valverde’s future on Friday, Lionel Messi indicated he wished him to remain, the captain’s approval maybe much more vital than that of the president.

“I actually imagine the boss has finished a powerful job throughout his time in cost,” stated Messi. “I would love him to proceed.”

However that was earlier than the 2-1 ultimate defeat to Valencia on Saturday, which, regardless of a second-half surge, impressed by Messi and his objective 17 minutes earlier than the top, leaves a title-winning season swamped in disappointment.

Valverde has by no means been beloved at Camp Nou, the query marks hanging over him to do with points much less tangible than outcomes.

In any case, in La Liga, they completed this season 19 factors forward of Actual Madrid, whom they beat by an combination rating of 10-2 over 4 matches, and 11 away from Atletico.

As an alternative, his sceptics complain about type, seen as overly-rigid, and suitability, a 55-year-old accountable for his sixth membership, wise and statesmanlike, however missing the fizz for a coach of Barcelona.

The 2 arguments are linked and, till now, lacked proof to provide them weight. However maybe doubts might be self-fulfilling and when Rodrigo headed in Valencia’s second on Saturday night time, the gamers could have begun to imagine them too.

BITTER-SWEET SEASON

“It has been a great 12 months,” stated Gerard Pique. “However we anticipated to do a significantly better 12 months. The style is bitter-sweet.”

Bartomeu should now resolve if Valverde can take Barcelona the place they desperately wish to go, to victory within the Champions League, and if not, who may.

There’s a summer season sale on super-coaches however none of Massimiliano Allegri, Jose Mourinho or Antonio Conte are proponents of the Barca DNA.

On the different finish of the spectrum is Quique Setien, a soccer purist often linked prior to now, besides he has simply parted methods with Actual Betis for failing to match type with outcomes.

Or former midfielder Xavi, with a way of future and really actual adoration of the followers. He has the trophies too however fewer days, not to mention golf equipment, as a fully-fledged coach.

Any successor to Valverde can be charged with enchancment, which may solely imply successful the Champions League, a reassertion of identification and, now, rejuvenation.

It might be unfair on Valencia’s decided, gutsy efficiency to say this ultimate was a recreation Barcelona by no means wished to play.

However for 30 minutes earlier than half-time, they had been flat, disheartened by Kevin Gameiro’s opener and, ultimately, defeated by Rodrigo heading in once more 13 minutes later.

Every time, Valverde’s gamers regarded overwhelmed, drained of the conviction that made them champions, as an alternative gazing into house and wallowing in self-pity.

“We’re down, we are able to’t conceal it,” stated Valverde.

When Barcelona gained the league with three video games to spare final month, Bartomeu felt assured sufficient to declare: “We would like the treble”.

If it regarded like he was placing strain on his gamers, it was as a result of they believed too. They took a 3-Zero lead over Liverpool, with a possible ultimate to come back in opposition to both Ajax or Tottenham.

Beat a Valencia facet nonetheless struggling even to make La Liga’s prime 4 and all three main trophies can be theirs. It appeared inside touching distance.

As an alternative, 41 virtually faultless weeks have been undone in lower than three.

When the ultimate whistle blew, Valencia’s employees and substitutes rushed on, previous Barcelona’s gamers, a few of whom sank to their knees. Others simply trudged off, anticipating all of it to be over.

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