With his discreet attitude, prudent, not keen on big headlines and booming attitudes, Ernesto Valverde is a coach who keeps a low profile.
He prefers the protagonism to go to the players and he stays back. This sometimes means his work is not correctly valued by Barcelonismo, it’s not hailed as it should be.
If the team today is at the doors of a treble it is, in great measure, thanks to his way of being which has earned him the respect of the dressing room. Can you remember Lionel Messi praising the decisions of a coach as he did at the Benito Villamarin? “We were well organised because Valverde prepared for the game very well, tactically perfect,” said Messi.
The dressing room is with Valverde because they understand football today is not the same as 10 years ago, and evolving, advancing and changing is an obligation for any team that wants to win titles.
One is a good coach when they have the capacity to adapt with the times. Pep Guardiola has done so at Man City when, in some games, he uses a double pivot with Fernando and Fernandinho, something Valverde has done too.
The coach was key in Madrid when in the second game Barca patrolled Vinicius Jr much better and incorporated Arthur into midfield. He was key again against Betis.
Taking into account Betis beat Barca at Camp Nou, Valverde opted for a 4-4-2 to close down Betis in midfield and take Canales and Lo Celso off the scene. They were disconnected and Barca marched one step closer to the title.
There was one significant detail. During the game, seeing Joaquin and Tello join the attack, Valverde ordered Ter Stegen to kick the ball long and he did so - three times they nearly led to goals.
Later, as is habitual for him, he didn’t take the credit and he hailed Messi in stead - also fantastic - because he understands football is about the players, not the coaches.
What you ask for from a Barca coach is titles, and Valverde is close. For that you need to know how to take decisions which are sometimes unpopular, with those that pine for the Barca of 10 years ago. Or which could upset the dressing room, but nobody is complaining there. And that speaks well of Valverde.
His explanations must be convincing because there is no fire to put out and hasn’t been really since the start of the season. Nor since he took over.
The group is with him and that is not easy after two and a half years in charge of the team.
Valverde coaches Barcelona from the shadows, out of focus. If he thinks a 4-4-2 is right to lead them to the treble, he will take that decision. He’s not playing to the galleries but thinking of the good of the team.
And the dressing room knows it.
For that, they are with him to the death.