Valverde returns to Espanyol as new coach

May 31, 2006

MADRID, May 31 (Reuters) - Former player Ernesto Valverde was unveiled as coach of King's Cup winners Espanyol on Wednesday.

Valverde, who has signed a one-year contract, takes over from Miguel Angel Lotina who left Espanyol at the end of the season after leading the club to victory in the King's Cup and survival in the Primera Liga.

Valverde, who coached Athletic Bilbao between 2003 and 2005, played for the Catalan club from 1986 to 1988.

"I'm really looking forward to the challenge," the 42-year-old told a news conference. "I'm returning to the club that gave me my first division debut and that means a lot to me."

The club preserved their top flight status in dramatic fashion after an injury-time goal gave them victory over Real Sociedad in the final match of the season.

"I think the people at the club are still recovering from the shock of what happened at the end of the season," said Valverde.

"Our priority will be to ensure we stay in the first division. Relegation would be a catastrophe and it has to be avoided."