Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has paid tribute to the club’s outgoing boss Ernesto Valverde: “It was an honour to work for you.”
Valverde led the club to league titles in each of his two full seasons at the helm while also leading the club to the Copa del Rey crown in his first campaign at the helm and the Spanish Supercopa the following year.
Pique was instrumental during Valverde’s rein – a virtual ever-present alongside central defensive partners such as Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet.
“You are leaving the league leading team after winning two league titles in two years,” Pique wrote on his Twitter account.
“It was an honour to work at your service and I hope everything goes well for you. It's always a pleasure to work with people like you in life. A big hug, Mister.”
In his first season at the club, Barcelona suffered only one league defeat – and after the title had already been won, with a 5-4 loss at Levante coming just days after the club had arranged a friendly match.
A hugely impressive debut campaign domestically also saw the Blaugrana lift the Copa del Rey, dismantling Sevilla 5-0 in the final – but a harrowing Champions League exit to Roma at the quarter-final stage was a low point.
The following league campaign brought just two meaningful league defeats – against Leganes and Real Betis – before the title had been wrapped up, although this time the Catalan giants lost out in the Copa decider, defeated 2-1 by Valencia.
Again though, the season suffered a massive low point with the club exiting the Champions League at the semi-final stage – blowing a 3-0 first leg lead against Liverpool to go down 4-0 in the second.
Somewhat surprisingly, Barcelona’s board reiterated their support of Valverde for this campaign and he has left them top of La Liga, but with just 40 points from 19 matches they are ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference only.
The Blaugrana also topped a tricky Champions League group – including Borussia Dortmund and Inter – but Thursday’s 3-2 defeat against Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa proved to be Valverde’s last game at the helm.
It is the first time that Barcelona have sacked a Coach in the middle of a season since Louis Van Gaal in 2003 – when they were 20 points behind Real Sociedad, and eventually finished sixth.