Madrid, June 21 (IANS) Athletic Club Bilbao appointed Ernesto Valverde as their new first team coach.
Valverde replaces Marclo Bielsa after the club decided not to renew the Argentinean's contract at the end of the recently concluded season following a disappointing campaign. Valverde's appointment was confirmed by the club late Thursday, reports Xinhua.
For the first time in its history, the Basque club was unable to repeat their success of the previous year in which they reached the finals of the Europa League and the Spanish Copa del Rey.
Athletic spent most of the season hovering above the relegation zone and made early exits from both Europe and the domestic cup, while the year was also marked by a breakdown in relations between Bielsa and the board of directors.
The decision means a return 'home' for the 49-year-old. Besides spending time as a player at Athletic, he began his coaching career with the club, working his way up through the youth system before coaching the first team for two years between 2003-05. He led the club to a fifth place finish and took them to the semifinal of the Cup, before a disagreement with the then president, Fernando Lamikiz, led to him abandoning the club.
He then spent two seasons with Espanyol, which led to the final of the UEFA Cup, before leaving to coach in Greece where he won a league and cup double with Olympiakos.
His only 'failure' was with Villarreal, where he was sacked midway through the 2009-10 season with the club in mid-table, although perhaps the fact that Villarreal were relegated in the 2011-12 campaign puts that into perspective.
After leaving Villarreal, Valverde returned to Olympiakos, winning another two leagues and the cup in two years in Greece, while he returned to Spain just before Christmas to take over struggling Valencia after Mauricio Pellegrino was sacked with the club just above the relegation zone.