Soccer-Valverde returns to Athletic Bilbao for third stint

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Spanish Super Cup - Semi Final - FC Barcelona v Atletico Madrid - King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - January 9, 2020 Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde reacts REUTERS/Sergio Perez

(Reuters) - Ernesto Valverde will take over as head coach of Athletic Bilbao for a third time as the club's longest serving manager signed a one-year contract, the LaLiga club said on Thursday.

Valverde, who last coached Barcelona and guided them to two league titles and the Copa del Rey, had been out of a job since he was sacked in January 2020.

"It's always an honour to coach Athletic," Valverde said. "This club means a lot to me. And I know what it means not just to Bilbao, but to a lot of other places around the world too.

"I made the decision to return because I believe this is a challenge which is exciting and demanding enough to make it worth a go.

"The main objective is that the fans feel proud and can identify with the team. We've got a good team to work with and that's what we're going to set about doing."

The 58-year-old had previously coached Athletic between 2003-2005 and 2013-2017, helping them win the Supercopa de Espana in 2015.

It was the first trophy the club -- which only selects players who are from or grew up in the Basque Country -- had won in the 21st century.

Athletic finished eighth in LaLiga last season, missing out on qualification for any European competition.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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