Valverde agrees to coach Barcelona for another season

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              FC Barcelona's head manager Ernesto Valverder, left, and Athletic Bilbao's head manager Gaizka Garitano, give instructions during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Athletic Bilbao and FC Barcelona at San Mames stadium, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. FC Barcelona tied he match 0-0.(AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Ernesto Valverde has agreed to stay on as Barcelona coach for at least one more season.

Valverde will exercise the option in his contract to continue, the defending Spanish champions said on Friday. They added Valverde also agreed to add the possibility of coaching for the 2020-21 season.

The 55-year-old Valverde joined Barcelona from Athletic Bilbao in mid-2017 to replace Luis Enrique.

Even though he inherited a talented team led by Lionel Messi, Valverde expertly managed the club crisis provoked by the departure of Brazil star Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.

Valverde solidified the team’s defense— earning him some criticism from its fans for the alleged lack of flashy play— and let Messi lead the way to the Spanish league and Copa del Rey titles.

The only stain on his record at Barcelona was a stunning 3-0 loss at Roma that eliminated it from the Champions League quarterfinals last season.

This season, Valverde has helped Barcelona regroup following the departure of veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta.

Barcelona leads the Spnaish league, has reached the semifinals of the Copa del Rey, and the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

After a league match against Valladolid on Saturday, Barcelona visits Lyon on Tuesday to start its Champions League round-of-16 tie.