Athletic Bilbao coach Ernest Valverde has laughed off reports he is being considered to replace Gerardo Martino as Barcelona boss next season.
Catalan daily Sport this week claimed Valverde was on a five-man short list compiled by Blaugrana sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta to succeed Martino, who is likely to be leaving the club during the summer.
The other names on the speculative list were Celta Vigo coach and former Barca player Luis Enrique, Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp, Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone and former Chelsea and Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Valverde, who was a player at the Camp Nou in the late 1980s, told Mundo Deportivo that he paid no attention to such ‘jokes’.
“This is a joke, no?,” Valverde said. “Well, I do not want to discuss jokes. You should ask whoever wrote it. I have enough here with my own stuff. I am not worried about these type of things.
"This press conference is for the game against Granada. In the big teams these things come out every two or three days, and the coach who is there has to put up with them.”
Meanwhile Barca playmaker Xavi Hernandez said he and his teammates had never doubted the ideas of Martino and his assistant Jorge Pautasso, who have been much criticised following last weekend’s shock 3-1 La Liga defeat at Real Sociedad.
“We have never doubted,” Xavi said. “They have a clear philosophy. [Martino] is a natural leader, a football man, dynamic, a winner… He has surprised us in a good way. The two are a team, they are professional in what they do.
"People look for someone to blame, and point at the coach. That is not fair. We are all guilty, we are a team. We all made mistakes, the players at Anoeta, those who did not participate. We are self-critical and understand criticism after a defeat.”
Xavi was an unused substitute at Anoeta, despite spending much of the second half warming up, and TV pictures showed him looking on angrily from the bench in the final stages.
The 34-year-old World Cup-winner denied speculation that he had decided himself to sit back down again when it became obvious he would not be sent on -- even though Barca had one substitution left to make.
“No, the coach is the one in charge,” he said. “My upbringing does not allow me to take decisions over the coach, no matter what ‘cache’ you have or what you have won in your career.
"The coach is above everyone, that is the philosophy of ‘Can Barca’. They told me I wouldn’t be getting on, so I returned to the bench. I get angry not taking part, like all players, it’s only human, but with total respect.”
Xavi said the speculation over Martino’s future -- even though he has a contract which runs until the end of the 2014-15 season -- had not affected the coach's demeanour on the training ground this week.
“[Martino] looks fine to me, with even more of a winning character,” he added. “He looks sure of himself and motivated like all the team to make up the three points we have lost.
"The boss is very transparent. What he says in the press conference is the same thing he says to us. We know this was a step backwards, but there does not need to be so much analysis because nothing good comes out of it.”