Playing without a crowd a ‘horrible’ experience, says ex-Barcelona boss Valverde

Ernesto Valverde Barcelona 2019-20
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The veteran coach does not look back on his previous experience of football without a crowd fondly ahead of La Liga's resumption

Former Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde is not enamoured with the prospect of La Liga having to play the remainder of the season behind closed doors.

He once took charge of Barca’s behind-closed-doors encounter with Las Palmas, which they won 3-0 thanks to a hat-trick of second-half strikes, and described the experience as “horrible”, though he accepts the extenuating circumstances may change the attitude of players.

Professional football in Spain has been shut down for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen more than 280,000 people in the country test positive, with close to 27,000 losing their lives according to latest figures.

However, La Liga is hoping to resume on June 11 with Sevilla playing against local rivals Real Betis, while Barcelona lead the way at the top of the standings with 11 rounds to play.

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Valverde, who won successive Primera Division titles with Barca in a two-and-a-half season spell that ended in January, is not much looking forward to the prospect of the fixture list being fulfilled in empty stadiums.

“A couple of games could maybe be fine, but I don’t know what it’s going to be like to have 100 without a crowd,” he told Radio Marca. “The first ones will be complicated.”

Barcelona Las Palmas 2017

Valverde thought back to his own fleeting experience of football without spectators.

“It was horrible,” he confessed. “We weren’t ready to play that way. Maybe now everyone is a little more psyched up.”

While he stressed that the health of the nation must come first, he is looking forward to a return of football.

“These have been hard times, especially because of the concern you have for those closest to you,” he said. “We’re experiencing something that has never happened before and maybe that’s made us look at people who do more essential jobs. But that does not stop football from being a spectacle that we take a great deal of enjoyment from.”

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As the most capped coach in Athletic Club’s history, meanwhile, he paid tribute to Aritz Aduriz, the legendary forward who has announced his retirement last week.

“It’s been a difficult year for him,” he said. “He’s been straddling the first team and the bench. It’s been difficult for him.

“He made a brave decision and I think it’s for the best. He’s a player who’s improved with age and he’s always had good numbers everywhere he’s gone.”