Football

Barcelona appoint former Real Betis coach Quique Setien as Valverde replacement

Barcelona have appointed Quique Setien as their new coach following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde and after failing to persuade their former player Xavi Hernandez to take over.

Setien, the former Real Betis coach, is known for his attractive, attacking football with Barcelona having grown tired of Valverde’s approach even though the club is again top of La Liga and won its Champions League group.

Setien, 61, led Betis to wins over Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid last season but lost his job after a downturn in form. However his exciting, attacking style of football is regarded as more in keeping with what Barcelona want while the Spaniard’s ready availability means that the club felt able to make a change.

Valverde’s dismissal is the first time that Barcelona have sacked a coach in the middle of a season since Louis Van Gaal in 2003 when they were 20 points behind the league leaders and eventually finished sixth.

Even though Setien has got the job Barcelona did first approach Xavi with director of football Eric Abidal and chief executive Oscar Grau having flown to Qatar to try and persuade the feted former midfielder to take over. Xavi is currently in his first coaching role with Qatari champions al-Sadd and although they are struggling he does not want to leave right now.

Xavi has expressed a desire to one day become Barcelona coach and the club had discussed waiting until the end of the season to see if they could persuade him.

That would have involved appointing a caretaker or a coach in a short-term role but it is understood that Setien has agreed a two and a half year deal.

Barcelona had originally intended to see out the season with Valverde, whose contract runs out then, but following the 3-2 loss to Atleti in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia last Thursday the club decided to act.

It had been thought that Barcelona would wait to see whether another of their former players – Valverde also played for the club – Ronald Koeman would be available after he took Holland to Euro 2020. Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was also a candidate.

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