Football

I guarantee my team will play well: Barca's new coach Quique Setien

Setien takes over from Valverde despite Barcelona topping La Liga

Before a match against Barcelona at the Nou Camp more than a year ago, then-Real Betis coach Quique Setien asked Sergio Busquets for his jersey.

He said he wanted it with a written dedication, so he could frame it.

The Barcelona midfielder obliged, later sending Setien an autographed jersey with the message: "For Quique, with love and admiration for your way of looking at football. All the best."

Real Betis won that match 4-3 in November 2018, marking the last time Barcelona were beaten at home.

Setien was back at the Nou Camp yesterday, more than 14 months later, to be officially introduced as coach of Barca, the club that for so long inspired his vision of football. He signed a contract until 2022.

The 61-year-old Spaniard often tried to get his teams to mimic Barcelona's ball-possession and attack-minded style, and now he will get to do it himself at the Catalan club.

"I have really enjoyed watching this team and these players on TV over the last few years," Setien said.

"They made me enjoy football, game after game.

"I still don't think I realise what it means to be sitting on the bench coaching the best player in the world and his teammates."

Setien said he immediately accepted the job when it was offered to him.

He replaces Ernesto Valverde, who was let go four days after a loss to Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup.

Barcelona had also drawn three of their last four La Liga games, but remain top of the table. Their next match is on Monday morning (Singapore time) against Granada.

FIRST TRAINING SESSION

Setien led his first training session in the morning, before being officially introduced and giving his first news conference with the club.

"Not even in my greatest dreams I imagined being here. Today is a very special day for me," he said.

"Yesterday, I was walking around my home town with cows around me and now I'm here at Barcelona managing the best players in the world."

Setien, who Barcelona called "one of the most experienced coaches in Spanish football," said most of his knowledge comes from watching and playing against a Johan Cruyff-led Barcelona.

He once said he would sacrifice his pinky to play for Cruyff at the Catalan club. Setien also called Lionel Messi a "luxury and the best player in history".

Said Setien: "I can guarantee my team will play well. We want to win every title possible, in addition to playing well."

He had been at Betis since 2017, until deciding to take some time off at the end of last season. He led them to sixth place in the league in his first season, and to the Copa del Rey semi-finals in his second season.

He previously coached smaller clubs such as Racing Santander, Las Palmas and Lugo.

Explaining why Barca sacked Valverde despite being top of the league, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: "We made a change now because we are halfway through the season and we needed some new momentum to face the final stretch of the season as we always have very big objectives.

"Even though the results were very good, we knew that there was room for improvement in the team's play and we spoke to Valverde about this.

"And in the last few days, we had told him that the team needed to improve."

Barca confirmed they tried to hire club great Xavi Hernandez, while Spanish media reports said they also approached Holland coach Ronald Koeman and former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino. - AP, REUTERS

Football