Athletic Bilbao announce Valverde departure amid Barcelona speculation

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The Basque club have made it official that their coach will not take charge for the 2017-18 La Liga season following a seventh-place finish this term

Ernesto Valverde will not take charge of Athletic Bilbao next season amid speculation he will imminently be announced as the new Barcelona coach.

Valverde has been in charge of the Basque club since 2013 and led Athletic to a seventh-place finish this term.

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While Barcelona are yet to confirm the name of their new coach - an announcement is scheduled for May 29 - Valverde has been considered among the front-runners for the post since Luis Enrique said in March he would leave Camp Nou at the end of the current campaign.

Valverde, who has also led Valencia and Villarreal during his career, will appear at a news conference at San Mames on Wednesday alongside Athletic president Josu Urrutia.

"Ernesto Valverde will not continue as coach of the Athletic Club first team in the 2017-18 campaign," read a brief Athletic statement released on Tuesday.

The 58-year-old is a former Barcelona player, having been on the books of the club between 1988 and 1990, and collected Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup medals despite mostly being used as a squad player.

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Valverde then moved on to Athletic, where he spent the bulk of his playing career before rising through the ranks of the backroom staff and becoming first-team coach in 2003.

After moving to Espanyol, Valverde enjoyed a fruitful pair of spells at Olympiakos either side of a brief period with Villarreal, winning three Greek league titles. He returned to Athletic following a year at Valencia.

Valverde was in charge of Athletic for their 5-1 aggregate Supercopa triumph against Barcelona in 2015 and now seems set to be the next man charged with bringing silverware to Camp Nou.