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Valverde 'cannot confirm' Barcelona talks but admits to interest from other clubs

Ernesto Valverde says he is unable to confirm that he is in talks with Barcelona over becoming their new head coach.

The 53-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to Camp Nou to replace Luis Enrique, who will step down when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Athletic Bilbao confirmed on Tuesday that Valverde would not stay on as coach for a fifth season, prompting significant speculation that he will hold talks to finalise a deal with Barca.

However, when asked about the reported interest from the Catalans, he told a news conference on Wednesday:  "I cannot confirm it, I'm sorry."

Valverde claims there is a lot of interest in him but insists he has yet to speak with any club.

He continued: "There is a lot of speculation regarding my future but, I have to say it clearly, I haven't committed myself to any team. I haven't spoken to any club.

"I do have an agent, and there are clubs that are interested in me. But this is my club, it was my duty to first say farewell to it before I go and consider something else.

"This is not the first time I've had offers from big clubs, our president knows that. When I first came here I thought I would only remain for two years.

"Four years later, I've realised that I've spent double the time I thought I would. It's a hard day for me [to leave], all that I've experienced here is incredible.

"But the decision to leave was taken a while back. I feel my work here is done. I think it's good to have movement in football, for someone new to come along and have fresh ideas."

Valverde, who took charge in 2013 and guided Athletic to their first major trophy in 31 years when they beat Barca in the 2015 Supercopa de Espana, suggested that he could take a year out of the game.

"Why not?" he replied when asked about a sabbatical. "I can do what I want."