Athletic looks in the mirror of Ernesto Valverde | Soccer | Sports


Ernesto Valverde was never seen as excited as he was on Saturday morning. He is a polite, close, even warm person, but so discreet that he barely allows his feelings to emerge on a football field. He has won titles with Olympiacos and Barcelona, ​​but he considers that the Cup he has won with Athletic is the most special of his career. And he did not somersault as he had jokingly promised. He only limited himself to appearing before the media with a t-shirt commemorating the title.

The first thing he did after Berenguer scored the final penalty was to hug Javier Aguirre, the Mallorca coach, with whom he has a wonderful relationship. Then he turned around, raised his fists to the sky and put his hands on his head, as if remembering the phrase that the protagonists of the titles from the 80s repeat and that Piru Gainza, then Javier Clemente’s right-hand man, told them when They won the League at the Insular stadium: “Guys, you don’t know what you’ve done.” Perhaps the gesture, before hugging his team of collaborators, was because Ernesto Valverde is aware of what they had done: flooding millions of fans with happiness.

Although he does not want to talk about his renewal, his statements in the Cartuja press room, in which he confessed not having remembered that Athletic already has a secure place in Europe next season, “ah, that’s true, I hadn’t even thought realized”, they hinted that there will be no problems to continue in the team of his life, in which he has played, and for which he has coached in three eras.

Nor will the president, Jon Uriarte, object, who considers him “one of the best coaches in the world.” For the rojiblanco leader, “Ernesto is an incredible coach, he is a luxury. I hope he will be with us for many years.” The president, who lived the last barge when he was five years old and dressed in the Real uniform – is the nephew of Luis Uranga, former president txuriurdin–, it is very clear. It just depends on the technician, who doesn’t seem like he’s going to resist too much.

Because for Valverde, Athletic is almost in his DNA. Although it took him a while to arrive, because he played for Alavés, Sestao, Espanyol and Barcelona before joining Athletic as a footballer, where he played six seasons before retiring at Mallorca, he always found his refuge in Bilbao. It was the place to which he returned every time one of his adventures on the bench ended.

It was the city in which he lived when two of the three candidates in the last elections called him to incorporate him into their candidacy. It was, perhaps, his last opportunity to sit on the Athletic bench. He made it a condition not to be used as an electoral weapon, but simply as a claim, and when Uriarte won, he signed for a season. His third stage began. The first, due to a personal bet by Andoni Zubizarreta, who risked bringing him up from Bilbao Athletic; the second, with Josu Urrutia – with whom he shared a dressing room – as president. He signed him to appease a bewildered dressing room after Marcelo Bielsa’s second year. The first time, with the new field with a stand under construction, he got the team into the Champions League.

He was there from 2013 to 2017, he put Athletic in Europe every season, won a Super Cup and became the coach with the most games in red and white history. When he went to Barcelona, ​​with which he won two leagues, he left a huge hole in Athletic that neither Ziganda, nor Berizzo, nor Garitano, nor Marcelino, finished filling. During that period, Athletic stopped playing European competitions, nor did they do so upon his return. Valverde, an enemy of vain promises, must have found the press conference with Muniain and the president somewhat out of place, in which they set the goal of playing in Europe. The promise was not fulfilled, so the scene was not repeated in this season. Nobody promised anything, except work, and the coach born in Viandar de la Vera, in Cáceres, a town where he goes when he can, gave one more twist. He began to have a series of promising youngsters, and to take center stage from some of the veterans. Captain Muniain and Raúl García have played considerably less than in other seasons.

He opted for Ruiz de Galarreta from the beginning; with Prados later, and he insisted on keeping Aguirrezabala in goal for the Cup. From the beginning to the end. He responded by stopping a penalty against Morlanes in the final shootout, and responding with great interventions on Mallorca’s chances.

Valverde also opted for Guruzeta, to accompany the Williams brothers and Sancet on the offensive line, and the forward responded with goals. To top it off, in the final, he gave the expert touch when it came to penalty shots. The four that Athletic executed were launched by veteran players and also with fewer minutes on the field, to remove responsibility from the most inexperienced. Raúl García, Muniain, Vesga and Berenguer responded. “The fifth was for Unai Gómez,” said Valverde. “I think he’s glad he didn’t throw it away.” There his work culminated, which has led Athletic to its twenty-fourth Copa del Rey, and him to go down in the club’s history as the coach who achieved it.

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