Barca’s Valverde unfazed by Copa loss: ‘I feel fine’



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SEVILLA, Spain — Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says Ernesto Valverde should not carry the blame for the surprise Copa del Rey final defeat to Valencia, while the coach insists he feels “fine” despite his side’s disastrous end to the season.

Barca wrapped up a fourth league title in five years in April but have seen their hopes of winning the Treble go up in smoke over the last 19 days. They gave up a three-goal lead in their Champions League semifinal against Liverpool on May 7, losing 4-0 at Anfield in the second leg, and then lost the Spanish cup final to underdogs Valencia, 2-1, on Saturday.

Bartomeu and team captain Lionel Messi gave their support to Valverde after the debacle at Liverpool and the president says that the club’s stance will not change following the failure to beat Valencia.

“Valverde has a contract, he’s the coach,” Bartomeu told Spanish television. “The [Valencia] defeat is not the manager’s fault. We had a lot of chances but the ball wouldn’t go in. Sometimes you have all the shots, but what counts is scoring goals.”

Valverde declined to answer a journalist asking him if his “credit has run out” as Barca coach after recent results, but did confirm he’s keen to continue to lead the team forward.

“I feel fine,” Valverde said in a news conference. “When you win, obviously you feel much better, much happier — but this is a different feeling to [Liverpool], even though we’ve lost again.

“We have not been able to fulfill the expectations that we’ve created throughout the season. A month ago, we celebrated the La Liga title thinking about winning a Treble and we’ve been knocked off that path at the decisive moment. We’re here to win trophies, nothing else.

“But I am fine, I am fine […] When managers lose, we always want to make amends and turn things around. There is no doubt about that. I know losing is tough. Something was lacking. That responsibility [I have] is difficult, but you have to accept it.”

Regardless of what happens with Valverde, changes are expected at Camp Nou this summer. The club have already confirmed the signing of Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong and sources have confirmed to ESPN FC that they remain interested in his teammate Matthijs de Ligt and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while now, but it’s not the moment to explain what will happen,” Bartomeu added. “There are always new signings, but now is not the moment to talk about it.

“Every year, new players come in. So far we have confirmed De Jong’s signing and now we will work on bringing in others and moving some players on, as is the case every summer. Now is not the moment to do anything, though.”

Messi’s second-half goal wasn’t enough to get Barca back into the game against a Valencia side who led 2-0 at half-time thanks to efforts from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo.

The loss saw the Catalans miss out on back-to-back domestic doubles, while the 30-time Copa del Rey winners also passed up the chance to win the competition for a fifth successive season, something never previously done in Spain.

“I wouldn’t say the season’s been a failure, but it’s not been excellent, either,” Bartomeu admitted. “Each year, we want to get to the final stage of the campaign with the best chance of winning everything and in the end we’ve lost two games, at Anfield and here, and we’ve missed out on two titles.”

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