Criticism of Barça coach Valverde unfair, says former pupil Williams

Ernesto Valverde has received much criticism from the Spanish media. (AFP pic)

BILBAO: Embattled Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is being treated unfairly by the Spanish media during the club’s winless run of three La Liga games, says Iñaki Williams, who played under him at Athletic Bilbao.

Barça lead the La Liga standings alongside Real Madrid with 14 points, but Valverde has come in for heavy criticism following a 2-2 draw with Girona, a 2-1 defeat to Leganés, and a 1-1 draw with former club Athletic on Saturday.

Spanish newspaper Marca ran an article after the draw with Athletic declaring: “Valverde, just go now”, while Barcelona-based daily Mundo Deportivo published a critical piece asking: “Why is one of the best squads in the world playing such poor football?”

Athletic forward Williams, however, said Valverde, who won a double of La Liga and the Copa del Rey in his debut season with Barça and lost only one league game, in the penultimate week of the campaign, deserved more respect.

“(It’s) not fair to question him for two draws and a defeat after everything he’s done for Barça,” Williams told Reuters in an interview today.

“We know how it is here — when everything goes well there’s nothing to say but when you lose or draw a couple of games it is a drama and everything is bad. That’s not right.”

Valverde, a former player for Athletic who coached the Basque club for six seasons over two spells, gave Williams his top-flight debut in December 2014, promoting him from the reserve side to the first team at the age of 20.

Three months later, Williams, born in Bilbao to parents from Ghana and Liberia, became the first black player to score for Athletic, who pick only footballers with ties to the Basque Country.

“Ernesto has helped me in everything, he helped me grow as a player, he’s very patient, he tries to make his players always give 100%, and that’s what he did; he really left his footprint here,” added Williams.

“We qualified for Europe in every year he was here so his numbers speak for themselves; every player here is very grateful to him, especially me because he gave me my debut.”

“I was playing in the third division at the time and it’s a big step up to playing in La Liga, but he made it seem small.”