Valverde: Barca link a joke

Athletic Bilbao Coach Ernesto Valverde has dismissed reports he is on the shortlist to be a future Coach of Barcelona.

It was claimed by Sport on Wednesday that Barca had drawn up a list of potential successors to Tata Martino should the Argentine leave Camp Nou earlier than expected.

Valverde was one of the names included but speaking at a Press conference, he was clear in his reluctance to take the claim seriously.

“What do you expect me to say? This is a joke isn’t it? Well, I don’t want to talk about jokes,” Valverde said.

“I suggest you go and talk to the person who wrote the article, I have enough on my plate as it is.

“These kinds of stories don’t worry me. This Press conference is about our game with Granada.

“At the big clubs, these stories come out all the time and the Coach who is already in the job is the one who suffers – he’s the one who must grin and bear all the rumours.”

Valverde was happier discussing Athletic, insisting that the team’s form has not suffered a dramatic slide.

“It’s not that drastic. We beat Betis, and that is the most important thing,” Valverde countered.

“It was a strange game – they ended on nine men and we were clear about what we wanted to do, with two men extra on the pitch.

“After going 1-0 up, we took our foot off the gas – it’s something which has happened on other occasions this season but the other day, we didn’t have the game sewn up.

“If the team is lacking rhythm, it’s plain to see.”

It was put to Valverde that Athletic are in danger of losing their grip on a Champions League qualification place due to the form of their rivals for fourth.

“We’re not really too surprised by how our direct rivals got on, the teams behind us are really pushing us,” he replied.

“If you lose a match, doubts start to enter but we have to learn how to control our nerves.

“The end of the season is creeping closer and we have to battle and know how to handle this final stage not just on the pitch but psychologically as well.”

Tags Barcelona B Valverde