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Barcelona put faith in purist Setien after sacking Valverde

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Madrid (AFP) – Quique Setien began his first session as Barcelona coach on Tuesday morning just as the sacked Ernesto Valverde drove out of the training ground for the last time.

Valverde had said goodbye to the players, collected his things and left, closing the page on a brutal few days that had finally seen him sacked on Monday night.

After Barca’s public pursuit of Xavi Hernandez ended in failure, they have turned to Setien, the 61-year-old who has dedicated his coaching career to a belief in exciting, possession-based football.

Barcelona confirmed Setien’s appointment following a board meeting that lasted more than four hours at the Camp Nou on Monday afternoon. His contract, which runs until June 2022, appears also to be a show of faith.

Valverde is the first coach to be sacked by Barca mid-season since Louis van Gaal in 2003 and if that points to chaos, Setien inherits a team in a healthy position too.

Barcelona sit top of La Liga, albeit level on points with Real Madrid, and face a winnable tie against Napoli next month in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Off the pitch, the club came top of Deloitte’s annual Football Money League table on Monday, after posting record earnings of 840.8 million euros ($ 937 million) for 2018/19.  

Some of that income might have to be channelled into signing a new striker this month, with Setien taking over a squad that will be without Luis Suarez for four months due to a knee injury.

More generally, he will have to find a way to marry his purist principles with results at one of the most demanding clubs in the world. His critics have suggested style can take precedence over substance.

“Having the ball makes you a football player, not running after it,” Setien said last year. He once commented he would have cut off his little finger to play under Johan Cruyff. 

After Valverde’s more functional approach, Barca will believe Setien’s philosophy chimes better with the principles they see as part of their DNA. 

“Setien is one of the most experienced coaches in Spanish football,” a club statement read on Monday night. “Throughout his career he has been a proponent of possession based, attacking football that has been attractive to the fans.”

His first game in charge will be at home to Granada on Sunday and a tricky first six weeks will include away games at Valencia, Real Betis and then Real Madrid at the start of March.


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