The way Barca dismissed Ernesto Valverde is indefensible

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7:53 PM ETGraham HunterSpain writer CloseGraham Hunter is a Barcelona-based freelance writer for ESPN.com who specializes in La Liga and the Spanish national team.When he left Barcelona’s training ground for the last time as the club’s manager before his dismissal on Monday, Ernesto Valverde noticeably wore a big, happy smile, and he raised a hand to wave somewhat ironically at the gathered media scrum. Why the smile? Well, perhaps because Valverde is a tough, pragmatic man.Firstly, there couldn’t have been an iota of surprise, at least at Barca president Josep Bartomeu’s actions.The humiliating manner of the club chasing one new coach after another in the past few days — via which Barca signalled that they’d given up on their manager while his team is top of the League, facing a weak Napoli in the Champions League and awaiting a first opponent in the Copa del Rey — was so pathetic, so ridiculous, that perhaps it may have surprised Valverde. But the 55-year-old Basque must have been counting the days until Bartomeu fully pulled the carpet from underneath him.Now, just for a second, those who claim that following Barcelona’s dreadful display at Anfield in last year’s Champions League semifinals and the subsequent disappointment of losing the Copa del Rey final to Valencia, there might have been a natural and well-timed break between the club and their manager probably have a good case. But Barcelona didn’t do that. Either they thought they knew better, or they were playing a “we’ll do what suits us for the moment” game, which has now backfired and left them with egg on their face.So, back to the point. Barcelona kept this man on, and they invested in the squad to the tune of more than 200 million euros, but I swear to you that Valverde will have been perfectly clear that his continuity was hanging by a thread. Why? For two reasons.Firstly, the away performances — in both La Liga and the Champions League — this season have not only continued a theme that has dogged Barcelona in Europe for several years now, they’ve worsened. Irrespective of their statistical positions right now, the trajectory was downward.Secondly, Valverde is far from a stupid man, and only a stupid man would have failed to recall how Bartomeu does his business: in a knee-jerk and brutal manner when he sees fit.For example, this is the man who was vice-president and consigliere to the regime when Eric Abidal, having been publicly promised he’d get a new contract the moment he was back ready to play after a liver transplant to beat cancer, was then unceremoniously shown the d

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