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Messi: My retirement is approaching, time flies


Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde extends contract until end of 2019-20

Ernesto Valverde has agreed a one-year contract extension with Barcelona, ending speculation that he could walk away from the club in the summer.

Valverde's new terms will ensure he remains in charge of Barca next season. There's also an option for him to extend the deal until the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

"I am really happy," he said. "I'm grateful that the club value what I am doing. They offered me the chance to continue and I am delighted to extend my contract.

"The intentions of clubs and coaches when deals are signed are always the best. The ides is to continue with the best intentions, but we know how football is, everything is dictated by results. There's always an uncertainty and we know how whimsical the game we're involved in can be.

"I feel really comfortable working here, with the backing of the board. I'm really comfortable with the team, with the players. I know how big the club is and it's a really exciting challenge to coach here and to work with these players. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, a lot of games to win and a lot of trophies that we want to get our hands on."

Doubts had risen in recent months about the coach's future. Speaking to Barca TV over Christmas, Valverde said he didn't know what he would be doing next season.

Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu has repeatedly expressed his will for Valverde to continue at the helm, and as recently as January said he was "certain" the former Athletic Bilbao manager would renew.

Valverde, 55, had not been as open about his desire. Last week, he said in a news conference that he had nothing to say about his future. But Friday's renewal brings an end to the suggestion this could be his final six months in charge of Barcelona.

Appointed as Luis Enrique's replacement in 2017, Valverde steered Barca to a league and cup double in his first season in charge. The Catalans came close to completing the whole league campaign unbeaten, only to lose to Levante in their penultimate game.

The surprise Champions League defeat to Roma -- where they suffered a collapse after winning the first leg 4-1 -- left a blot on an otherwise successful season, however.

This season, Barca are top of La Liga by six points and are through to the semifinal of the Copa del Rey. They drew 1-1 with Real Madrid in the first leg with the return to come at the Bernabeu on Feb. 27.

Before then, the Spanish champions play away at French side Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie.

A successful Champions League campaign, sources had told ESPN FC, was thought to be the key to Valverde staying on. In that sense, the renewal has come earlier than expected.

There are games in this run coming up which hare decisive, like the Copa del Rey game against Real Madrid," Valverde said. "We also have to see how we do in the Champions League game [at Lyon]. We have to be tread very carefully, and I include tomorrow's game in that. It's fundamental that we get three points."

Asked if he feared Real Madrid, Valverde said no. 

"Scared why? We always have the same rivals, Real Madrid, Atletico, Valencia... But we are not scared at all that they're getting closer to us because we are top."

Despite some concerns about his occasionally conservative approach to games, Valverde has the backing of the squad.

Both in private and in public, players, including Ivan Rakitic and Gerard Pique, have commented in recent weeks that they wanted Valverde to extend his deal with the club.


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