That day, he left the training ground with an ironic smile on his face and the reflection of the club’s crest on his car’s windscreen.
He left with Barça top of LaLiga. But with an expression of relief. Valverde knew more than the rest. He knew he had squeezed the last drops out of a golden generation.
He also knew the squad needed a big overhaul. However, president Josep Maria Bartomeu was not ready to do at that moment in time.
Time proved Valverde right. Furthermore, chaos ensued at Barça after his departure. Quique Setien and Ronald Koeman didn’t succeed as the Blaugrana coaches. Eventually, Xavi Hernandez has the task of restoring the club to their former glories.
Now as Athletic Club coach once again after two years outside of football, Valverde will face Xavi at Camp Nou.
Xavi was the man chosen to enact the generational change at Camp Nou, the post-Messi era in which Pique, Jordi Alba and Busquets are no longer guaranteed starters. Therefore Pedri, Gavi and Co. are leading the transformation.
The obstacle at the moment fo Xavi is time. The investment in the squad in the summer, with the arrival of players like Robert Lewandowski, increased the rush for trophies again.
For months, the talk has been of winning more than building a project. The situation in the Champions League — all but out — has pinned all hope on LaLiga. Barça last won, in back-to-back seasons, when Valverde was the boss.