It is a rare case for FC Barcelona (Barca) to change a coach midway through the season. The giant Spanish football club has removed its coach, Ernesto Valverde and named former Real Betis coach Quique Setien as his replacement. The club released a statement on Monday, January 13, 2020, “FC Barcelona and Quique Setien have reached an agreement for the latter to become first-team coach until 30 June 2022.”
The removal of the coach was mainly because of the club’s recent poor performance in the Spanish league tournament. On Valverde’s departure, the club stated, “The club publicly expresses its gratitude to Ernesto Valverde for his professionalism, his commitment, his dedication and his always positive treatment towards all that make up the Barca family. We wish him luck and success in the future.”
Valverde’s Recent Pressures from the Club Fans
Barca, under Valverde, had lifted La Liga, the Spanish League Cup for successive years in 2018 and 2019 and also won the Copa Del Rey in 2017-18 after he took charge in the club as a coach in 2017. However, the 55-year-old Valverde had been severely criticized for the team’s low performance in the current season and Barca fans attacked the coach over the recent performance of the team despite the club is leading the league standing point.
The fans’ attack against the coach intensified after Barca held a 2-2 draw with Espanyol which was followed by a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals for the current season. Valverde is the first coach that Barca terminated the contract in the middle of the season campaign since 2003 when Louis van Gaal was sacked.
Despite a successful domestic tournament record, the Barca team under Valverde had been attacked by fans as the team lost the Copa Del Rey final match to Valencia last season. Barca fans have been disappointed for long as it failed to show any better performance of the team in the UEFA Champion League or the European Cup, the most prestigious European tournament since its last victory in 2014-15.
Valverde had also failed to bring any development in the performance of the team in the UEFA league last two years. Barca was defeated in a shocking elimination by AS Roma, an Italy-based club in 2018 and Liverpool, an England-based team and also the defending champion of the last year’s UEFA league tournament. In both the matches, Barca had a three-goal lead in each tie.
Nevertheless, Valverde was supported by club’s players including the legend, Lionel Messi and other former Barca coaches including Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique. The former Barca player, Andres Iniesta criticized the Catalan club for the decision and insisted that Valverde deserved more respect.
Barcelona’s Remaining Play under the New Coach
Barca’s new coach, Quique Setien will start taking charge on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, and have his debut match against Granada in La Liga on Sunday. The team is now leading the Spanish league standing points ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference and will face Napoli on February 25 and March 18, 2020, for the last 16 of the Champions League matches.
Setien, a 61 years old Spaniard was the former coach of Real Betis, a Spanish club and helped to lead the club to a 10th place in La Liga last season. Setien was a midfielder player played in Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander during his career.
He is known for his possession and attacking game plan that is similar to Pep Guardiola’s introduction of a unique Barca style of playing football. Barca officials stated, “Throughout his career he has been a proponent of possession-based, attacking football that has been attractive to the fans.” He took a break at the end of the last season after his coach in Betis since 2017 and had experience being a coach in smaller Spanish clubs including Racing Santander, Las Palmas, and Lugo. Setien had not won any big title as a coach.
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