Barcelona target Ernesto Valverde coy on reports he will replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal

Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal
Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona target Ernesto Valverde has insisted he is yet to decide his future, following fresh reports in Spain linking him with the Arsenal job. The Athletic Bilbao boss admitted that working abroad at Olympiacos in the past was an "extraordinary" experience for his career, but added he doesn't have a personal target of managing in the Premier League.

Valverde, 53, has been viewed as the main candidate –alongside Juan Carlos Unzue – to take over at Barcelona ahead of the 2017-18 season, after Luis Enrique announced he will leave his position once his contract expires in the summer.

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The 53-year-old Valverde is also out of contract at San Mames at the end of the season and is said to be keen on stepping up to manage the La Liga giants – following a lengthy career with various spells at Athletic Bilbao, Olympiacos, Espanyol, Villarreal and Valencia.

On Wednesday morning Marca said Valverde has moved into the pole position ahead of Unzue to take the job following the Catalans' 3-0 defeat to Juventus in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final. As Luis Enrique's current assistant, Unzue is seen as partially responsible for the result.

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Earlier this week it was reported that Arsenal could do battle with the Catalans for Valverde's services, with the Athletic boss allegedly receiving a phone call on behalf of the Gunners amid the uncertain future for Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium.

Previous reports claimed Valverde had long held an ambition to manage in the Premier League and Marca added that the opportunity to replace a legend like Wenger would be "an enticing proposition".

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However, asked in a press conference about those reports, Valverde said: "I do not know where all those things come from. I've already trained abroad and for me it was an enriching experience. It was extraordinary. I do not know what is going to happen in the future but it's not a personal target to go to one place or another. We will see if I go [to the Premier League] now, soon or never. We'll see what happens in the future."

Meanwhile, the Spaniard insisted it is not the right time to speak about the possibility of signing a new deal at Athletic as his current focus is on helping help the Basque side end the campaign in the best possible way.

"I give the same answer as every week. Now it's time to compete, when the time of analysing the season arrives, I will announce [my decision]," he said. "I don't think [that the uncertainty over my future] affects the team because we always live with this. The fact that you ask me questions about it every week does not depend on me. It looks that it's because I haven't made a decision but I don't have to do it. Now I [have to be focused] on competing."

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