Valencia continue their return to Europe’s elite with a 2-1 Copa Del Rey win over Barcelona who end their season in turmoil.
Another Step Forward for Valencia
Valencia CF celebrate their 100 year anniversary in style by winning the 2019 Copa Del Rey. Having Valencia back in the Champions League for next season seems like a return to normal. Previous to this decade, Los Ches were a regular in Europe’s top competition appearing in consecutive Champions League finals in the early 2000’s. After a lot of financial issues mixed with a coaching carousel saw results on the field go really bad for a the last few years. This team deserves this Copa Del Rey title after a strong season especially since the Christmas break. They finished the season by winning 7 of their last 10 matches to edge out Getafe for the final Champions League place on goal difference. This trophy will help them forget the bitter disappointment of loosing to Arsenal in the Europa League semi final. This is their first trophy in over a decade having last won the Copa Del Rey in the 2007-08. The heroes on tonight for Los Ches were Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo who both scored in the first half before Messi got one back for Barcelona to make the final moments of the match very tense for Valencia.
You could see the relief and the joy of the players after the final whistle:
— Esquire MX y Latam (@esquirelat) May 25, 2019
Messi Opens Up About Champions League Loss
In the buildup to the Copa Del Rey final, Lionel Messi was more candid than usual opening up about how much the loss to Liverpool hurt. Of course he didn’t have to say anything for the world to know that would be how he felt. Still it was nice to actually hear from the man himself, a player not known for saying much outside the pitch.
From his comments you can see he believed that his team were going to play in the Champions League final June 1st before the collapse at Anfield:
"We were playing a final and we let them beat us." 😔
Messi not mincing words on the second leg defeat to Liverpool… pic.twitter.com/lqqkUrtxwt
— Goal (@goal) May 24, 2019
The Barcelona players took a lot of heat for that loss but it was head coach Ernesto Valverde that came in for the most criticism. After all he was in charge of the defeat in Rome last year and the way his team failed to react this time around, most of the blame has been aimed in his direction once again. There are many in Spain who believe that he may lose his job at the end of the season.
Before the Copa Del Rey final, Messi gave Valverde his full support:
Messi: "I did not see much nor listen to the criticism of Valverde, the coach… I sincerely believe that he has done an impressive job during his time here so far and he was not responsible for the elimination in Liverpool, it was our fault, we played a shocking game." pic.twitter.com/AF36t7MvPD
— barcacentre (@barcacentre) May 24, 2019
Copa Del Rey Loss Too Much to Overcome for Valverde
The time may be up for Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona regardless of what Messi said before the match. Most people believe that Messi was just saying the right thing anyway and if Valverde were to leave he wouldn’t be upset by it as long as a top class manager is brought in to replace him. It’s very harsh for a manager that won back to back league titles to get the sack but at this point nobody would be surprised. It’s not just that he lost back to back Champions League elimination games, it’s the manner in which his team lost that will be his ultimate undoing. While Messi still looks firmly in his prime, he isn’t getting any younger and can’t afford to keep wasting these types of opportunities.