Football News

Quique Setien: Who is Barcelona’s new manager?

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:49, 14 January 2020

Barcelona have confirmed the departure of Ernesto Valverde after two years and eight months in charge of the La Liga club.

In that time Valverde led the Blaugrana to two league titles and a Copa del Rey victory but the Spaniard failed to find success in the Champions League, including two humiliating exits to Roma and Liverpool in which they surrendered big first-leg leads.

He has been replaced almost immediately by Quique Setien who signed a deal with Barcelona until the end of the 2022 campaign, proving his appointment is not just a temporary fix. This comes despite reports Barcelona had been looking into appointing former midfielder Xavi, who is currently managing Al-Sadd, though the Spaniard admitted he wouldn’t want to take over just yet

The rumours linking Xavi to Barcelona will still be there, of course, but until that does happen the Blaugrana have Setien at the wheel. So, what can we expect from him?

Who is Quique Setien?

Although many will know Quique Setien as a manager, some might not realise – or be old enough to remember – that the Spaniard was previously a central midfielder.

The 61-year-old had an almost 20-year long playing career spread across four clubs, with boyhood side Racing Santander benefiting most with 369 appearances across two separate spells. It was at Racing where Setien started his playing career, as they were his local club, and he played for the first-team for eight years before moving on to Atletico Madrid.

Three seasons in the nation’s capital brought the only trophy of Setien’s career as Atleti won the 1985 Supercopa de Espana, beating Terry Venables’ Barcelona 3-2 over two legs, with the midfielder starting both matches.

Four years with Logrones followed before a return to Racing and a minor spell at Levante bringing an end to Setien’s playing career – which also brought three Spain caps.

Who has Quique Setien managed?

Like with his playing career, Setien made his managerial bow at boyhood club Racing Santander but this time he would only last a season despite helping them gain promotion to La Liga.

With Racing in Spain’s top flight, Setien opted to stay in the second division moving to Poli Ejido though his spell was very short. More brief spells with Equatorial Guinea and Logrones followed before Setien finally found his footing as a manager with Lugo.

Setien joined the Galician club in 2009 when they were in the third tier of Spanish football and led them to the Segunda Division within three years, keeping them there until his departure. And the club have managed to build on Setien’s legacy, remaining in the Spanish second tier since, although they currently sit 20th and are fighting relegation this campaign.

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The 61-year-old’s next job was with Las Palmas, where he spent two seasons and guaranteed their safety from relegation in La Liga in his debut campaign.

But perhaps his most famous role came next, taking charge of Real Betis ahead of the 2017/18 campaign. In his first season he led the Sevillan club to sixth in La Liga, securing a return to the Europa League for the first time since 2013/14. The following campaign brought a drop in league standings with Betis falling to 10th and exiting the Europa League at the round-of-32 to Rennes, but they did manage a 4-3 win over Barcelona at the Camp Nou – handing Valverde his only home defeat at the club.

Setien announced his departure from Betis at the end of that season, keeping him free for Barcelona to acquire him in January 2020.

What is Quique Setien’s playing style?

While his managerial CV boasts no major trophies and just a handful of promotions from lower leagues, Setien’s reputation comes with his playing style.

Setien’s possession-based football is not something that just came along with Betis, as many people will know him for. It’s something that has been with the manager throughout his coaching career, using it with success at Lugo and Las Palmas previously.

While dominating possession cannot always provide results, the Setien way of overloading in attack does enhance the chances – although it helps to have a potent attack which he will have with Barcelona.

Off the ball, Setien’s teams press high as well, ensuring opponents have very little time to compose themselves on the ball, trying to win possession back as high up the pitch as possible.

Perhaps fitting for his new club, Setien’s name has often been mentioned in the same sentence as Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff for the style of play he tries to impose. Although these are not complete comparisons, rather complimentary nods aided by Setien’s own admiration of the Dutch legend.

“I remember when Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona came along,” Setien told The Coaches’ Voice in 2019.

“You played against them, and you spent the whole match running after the ball. I said to myself: ‘This is what I like. I would like to be in this team, and know why this is happening.’

“How can you get a team to have the ball permanently, so that the opponent is running after it for the whole match?

“From then on, I started to make sense of what I had felt throughout life, through my career.

“I started to really watch football. To analyse it. To understand what I felt, and what I wanted to put into practice when I became a coach. I wanted the ball.”

It was a nice touch, then, to see those in charge of the late Cruyff’s Twitter account pay tribute to Setien’s arrival.