Athletic boss Valverde relaxed amid familiar Barcelona talk

The former Camp Nou forward has been linked with the Barça job before and says he is unaffected by speculation over Luis Enrique's successor.

Athletic boss Valverde relaxed amid familiar Barcelona talk

In the aftermath of the Spanish champions thrashing Sporting Gijon 6-1 on Wednesday, current Barcelona boss Luis Enrique announced he would stand down when his contract expires at the end of this season.

Athletic manager Ernesto Valverde has been linked with the job before and said on Friday that speculation is nothing new in football and that he was fully focused on Bilbao.

Valverde, who played for the Camp Nou club between 1988 and 1990, was mentioned in dispatches around the Barcelona job either side of Pep Guardiola's glorious 2008-2012 reign and after his late successor Tito Vilanova stood down due to ill health.

The 53-year-old's impressive job since rejoining Athletic for a second spell in 2013 – he also boasts two stints at Greek giants Olympiacos and tenures with Espanyol, Villarreal and Valencia – has done nothing to quell enthusiasm for his talents.

Valverde out of contract in the summer

Like Luis Enrique, he is out of contract at the end of the current campaign, and Valverde is reported to be an early frontrunner alongside Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli.

Athletic fell to a battling 1-0 loss at surprise title chasers Sevilla on Thursday and the future of both coaches was the main matter for discussion afterwards.

Sampaoli distances himself from Luis Enrique's seat

Sampaoli offered emphatic commitment to Sevilla, stating: "I am connected with the sporting project to death."

Valverde, however, offered the cool detachment of a man who has been here before. "I have nothing to do with a manager leaving a team or not, that is none of my concern," he said. "I'm focused on my team. I understand all the reports around the managers. Sometimes they give you a team, sometimes they leave you without any. I understand that this is part of the game, but I'm not affected. I'm focused on what's ahead. What I consider right now is Athletic."

Asked how he was coping with being a preferred option of the Barcelona fans, Valverde added: "Pretty good, I'm very relaxed. I say this because I've seen my team doing well [against Sevilla]. I was focused on the bench.

"We're used to be given a job or having it taken away"

"We are all used to this kind of thing, [speculation] to give you a job or to take it away from you. Nothing more. This is not the first time this happens to me when I was in another team. It's one circumstance. I don't want to be rude, it's just that the existence of reports doesn't mean we have to comment on them. I understand them, but that's it."

Valverde led Athletic to a fourth-place LaLiga finish in 2013-14 and qualification for the Champions League.

In 2014-15, they were beaten 3-1 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final but gained a measure of revenge at the start of the following season with a 5-1 aggregate triumph in the Supercopa de Espana.

Follow the match LaLiga 2016/2017 date 26 : Barcelona –Celta.