What Has Ernesto Valverde Done to Transform Barcelona? Not A Lot, Really

Despite returning Barcelona to the top of La Liga, already likely to tussle the Spanish title back from Real Madrid, Ernesto Valverde says the model at the Camp Nou has not changed.

Valverde, appointed as Luis Enrique's successor in the summer, has led Barcelona to a nine-point lead in the Spanish table, and 16 points clear of archrivals Real Madrid.

The club's La Masia academy is famous for developing young talent into first-team superstars, such as Lionel Messi, but the club has spent almost £300 million since Valverde took charge. He insists nothing has changed.

"The Barca model is the same as ever," Valverde said, as quoted by Spanish newspaper AS. "Barca have always turned to the transfer market to sign the best players, or a lot of them. Barca are also always looking at the academy to maintain our own style. That is still the case. Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, and company are unrepeatable. Sometimes there are more and sometimes there are less."

Barcelona paid £135.5 million for Ousmane Dembele a week after Paulinho was bought for £36 million from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande. On Monday, Barcelona set a club transfer record when they paid £142 million to sign Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool.

"We hope he can be a big help," Valverde said. "He can play in different positions, he can adapt to the team. He has the ability to score and assist. We're excited to have him, it's a great signing and we hope that Coutinho is also happy and that he gives us a lot."

Barcelona have been able to spend so much money over the past six months having been forced to sell Neymar Jr. to Paris Saint-Germain when the French club activated his release clause. The £199 million transfer more than doubled the original world record set in the summer of 2016 when Manchester United paid £90 million for Paul Pogba.

Valverde's team faces Celta Vigo on Thursday (January 11) in the second leg of the Copa del Rey round of 16, having drawn the first leg 1-1. Barcelona are yet to lose in La Liga, or in any competition since the Spanish Super Cup in August, but Valverde says he will not dwell on the record.

"You never look at past form, whether it's good or bad," he said. "It must be assessed with time, but on a day to day basis you think about how to keep on resolving things."

Ernesto Valverde
Ernesto Valverde at the Camp Nou, Barcelona, December 5, 2017. Valverde's Barcelona are top of La Liga and undefeated. Alex Caparros/Getty