Why did Barcelona sack Ernesto Valverde?

Reigning league champion, currently top of La Liga and through to the next round of the Champions League — so why did Barcelona sack its coach Ernesto Valverde?

For most clubs, winning successive league titles, progressing to the knockout stages of this season’s Champions League as group winner and being captained by Lionel Messi, one of soccer’s greatest players, would be reasons to triumphantly cheer.

But Barcelona is different, it views success through a different prism, which is why Valverde’s reign has come to an end after just under three years at the helm.

For the Catalans, one of the most successful clubs in European soccer, it is not only about what is won, but how those victories are achieved.

And domestic success means little if, say, the team squanders a 3-0 advantage and exits Europe’s premier cup competition in inglorious fashion.

Though Barcelona won last season’s La Liga by 11 points, losing just three times all season, ever since the Catalans squandered a 3-0 advantage in the semifinals of last year’s Champions League to famously lose 4-3 to Liverpool, Valverde’s position as manager has been in the balance.

That Valverde — who signed a contract extension last February to the end of this season — clung onto his job after that Champions League defeat and a subsequent Copa del Rey final loss against Valencia was perhaps a bigger surprise than Monday’s sacking.

It is the recent loss to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, added to Barca’s indifferent form away from home in the league, which has prompted the club’s hierarchy to replace Valverde with former Real Betis coach Quique Setien.

However, as with most successions, it wasn’t a smooth takeover. Former Barca great Xavi, having recently started his managerial career at Al-Sadd in Qatar, reportedly rejected an approach to succeed Valverde this month. For a few days at least the Catalans seemed to be in managerial limbo.

Another former Barcelona player linked with the job was current Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman, but with the Dutch among the favorites to win this summer’s European Championship it always seemed unlikely that the former Barca defender would return to the club this season.

Valverde oversaw training on Monday, but it always felt he was on borrowed time and so it turned out to be with the club announcing his sacking later that evening.

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