Outgoing Athletic Bilbao boss Ernesto Valverde confirms he is a wanted man

24 May 2017 12:39

Ernesto Valverde has confirmed he has interest from other clubs amid speculation he is set to become the new Barcelona boss.

The 53-year-old announced on Monday that he will be ending his four-year spell as manager of Athletic Bilbao.

That decision fuelled talk he will be joining LaLiga rivals Barca to succeed the outgoing Luis Enrique, although Valverde has refused to reveal his future plans.

"Right now I have no commitment to any team even though there are teams that have been interested in me," he said at a press conference to confirm his Bilbao departure.

"Athletic is my club, first I say goodbye to them and then I'll think of another team.

"I will not talk about other teams here and now."

Valverde is widely reported to be the frontrunner for the forthcoming vacancy at Barca.

The Catalan club's president Josep Maria Bartomeu has already revealed that they will unveil their new boss on Monday.

Valverde, who spent two seasons playing for Barca between 1988 and 1990, understands the interest in the next stage of his career and suggested a break from football remains a possibility.

"The decision (to leave) has been considered," he said. "We decided to communicate now so it wouldn't affect the team's progress, although I know it has the cost of speculation.

"It's possible a sabbatical, why not?"

Valverde is in his second spell in charge of the Basque club and also played as a forward for them during the 1990s.

He guided them to seventh in LaLiga this season having finished fourth, seventh and fifth in the previous three campaigns.

The f ormer Olympiacos and Valencia coach also won the Spanish Super Cup during his time at San Mames, beating Barcelona in the 2015 final.

He said lifting silverware was the most memorable moment of his tenure and added that his successor will inherit a strong squad.

"I remember to have won a title," he said. "The group spirit is what stays in my memory. The players have incredible humour. It is a team with very difficult qualities to find in football.

"I have told the players that this group will remain in the memory of the people."

Bilbao president Josu Urrutia, who sat alongside Valverde at the press conference, praised the manager's efforts and commitment to the club.

"We have to thank him for his work in these four years," Urrutia said. "For me it hasn't been a surprise (that he did a good job). We have stabilised at the top in a permanent and continuous way because he never relaxes."

Source: PA