On Tuesday it was made official that Ernesto Valverde would not be continuing at Athletic Club for a fifth season amid rumors that he would soon accept the upcoming vacancy at Barcelona. On Wednesday, in front of reporters and all of his players, Txingurri and President Josu Urrutia gave a joint press conference to make the announcement and, from the very beginning, Valverde was very emotional. He said that he considered staying, but knew it was time for someone else to take over.
“This is a hard day and I asked the President to be with me because I couldn’t have done it otherwise. As you know, I won’t be staying for a fifth year. That is the reality and it is unlikely to happen with any team. I came back here for two reasons – my family and President Urrutia. When I first came here I thought it would be for two years, but I stayed longer. I know that my work here is done and finalized. In football you always have to have movement and someone with new ideas. You have to shake things up. A change will suit the team well after four years under myself. It took me until recently to make this decision. I knew it was right, but I hesitated. I doubted leaving a lot, but I am convinced that my time is over. I cannot stay just to please everyone. I think this is the best decision for all.”
Valverde did state that he has no commitment to any other club. Many refuse to believe the statement with reports that Barcelona will announce their new manager on Monday. However, the former Athletic coach did also say that he has considered taking a sabbatical from football.
“I have no commitment to any team and I have not spoke to anyone. I have an agent and they are the ones that handle things like that. I’ve been solely focused on Athletic but this is my club, now that the season is over I will look at my options. Throughout my time here this isn’t the first time I’ve had offers from major clubs but I have always been happy living here and having the respect of the fans. The love they have shown me is amazing. When there is a proposal from a club, we will talk. There is also a possibility of a sabbatical.
Valverde went on again to say that staying at one club for an extended period of time is something that he sees as improbable. He believes that coaches can become stagnant, but that he is very proud of the success that the team has had under his guidance.
“I believe it is improbable that I could do five consecutive years at one team, even four seems like a lot. I am aware of the wear and tear of coaching. I’m sorry to disappoint those that want me to stay, but I’m convinced this is for the best. What I regret is not being able to take these fans with me. When I came here four years ago it’s because Athletic called and I felt an obligation to return. Four years later and everything has been incredible. I want to celebrate what we have achieved, not regret that I am leaving. This year has been complicated. We have not been as lucky and the fans are accustomed now to being in Europe. We set a very high bar and the demand has been even great. Urrutia asked me to reconsider my decision and I have my definitive answer a few days ago.”
Before concluding his final statements, Valverde had to take a long sip of water while fighting back tears. He went on to say, while trying to not get choked up, that he loves the fans and the players that he has had the privilege to coach. He wouldn’t discuss his replacement, but did praise Cuco Ziganda who is expected to be handed the job.
“The fans have always made me feel welcome and loved and supported. The people here have done me the greatest favor of my life and this group will remain in my memory forever. I wish I could take the fans with me. We have tried to be protagonists in every game and convey to the fans a sense of overcoming. All the comebacks were not by chance, these players have risen to the challenge. The achievements these four years, the Champions League, will remain with the fans forever. This group have made qualifying for Europe normal. Now I want to see Barcelona win the Cup next weekend so this team, my team, can enter Europe again. The players deserve it. This group is a luxury and I would tell the next coach to just be yourself. Is Cuco Ziganda going to be the next manager? I have a high opinion of Cuco. I have taken advantage of his work with the players who have come up to the first team. I cannot say anything about the next coach, it is not my place. Whoever takes over, they are getting a great team which is authentic and works hard together.”
Bilbao Athletic manager Cuco Ziganda is expected to become the next Athletic Club head coach. President Urrutia failed to give a timetable for announcing the next manager, but it isn’t expected to take long. Sources have said that the players have already been informed that Ziganda will be leading them next season. If Barcelona wins the Copa del Rey it will put Athletic into the qualifying rounds of the Europa League, meaning their first match of the new season will take place on 27 July against a European rival.