Quique Setien has replaced Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona’s head coach.
He looks stylish and intelligent, but who is this Spaniard? It’s safe to say the appointment of Setien as Blaugrana boss has taken many by surprise, with the 61-year-old something of an unknown quantity outside of his homeland.
Setien has managed six different Spanish clubs, with two of those competing in La Liga during his tenure, while he’s also (briefly) taken charge of the Equatorial Guinea national team. However, his CV says nothing about what a revolutionary football coach this man is.
Here are five things you should know about the new Barcelona coach:
‘Football Is Like Chess’
It shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that Barça is poised to appoint a man with his footballing philosophy. It’s their forte, after all.
So, what does Setien think about the beautiful game? Here’s how he put it (as quoted by Marca): “Sometimes, players may find it hard to grasp [my] footballing idea. It is the same thing that happens to me when I play chess.
“The reality, though, is that any footballer who understands space, time, positions, and those kind of elements can be a better player because he will receive the ball alone, and will have time to get off a pass or shoot at goal.
“I don’t have a specific or preferred formation. We change things according to the needs of the game. During the half-time break, your system can change a lot.
“Sometimes you start with five defenders, which includes two wing-backs and in others, you may have two or three in the centre of your midfield… it all depends on the situation.
“We try not to have a defined system and foresee the possibility for changes that may be needed but what doesn’t change is the essence of what we have.”
It’s clear to see Setien likes fluidity and adaptability, while also prioritising skill on the ball.
He’s a Lionel Messi Superfan
Having previously spoken of his admiration for the Catalan giants, it would be expected that Setien adores their greatest ever player.
After stepping down from his role as head coach at Real Betis, he stated (as quoted by Tribuna): “When a player like Xavi retires, it’s as if a kidney is removed. And the day that Messi retires, I will cry forever.”
It’s rather wholesome, really. As he enters the final years of his coaching career, Setien will finally get to work alongside the undisputed GOAT.
A Divisive Figure
Some people will have read Setien’s comments regarding his approach to football, and thought, ‘that sounds interesting’. Others will have read it, and thought, ‘it doesn’t make sense.
Many in Spain have shared the sentiments of the latter, with the veteran having battled criticism for much of his time as a manager.
His possession-centric style of play is likely to please the Barcelona faithful, but it has led to cruel mocking from rival fans during his coaching career.
ESPN has noted how Setien’s claim to having a ‘moral’ philosophy about the sport has made him a frequent target of abuse, opposition supporters believing the gaffer looks down on sides who fail to satisfy his footballing ideals.
Attitude Is Essential
Setien’s ideology places a heavy emphasis on mindset, the former Betis boss explaining in an article for Coaches Voice: “As a manager, I always try to find matches between a player’s way of thinking and mine.
“A footballer knows that, when he buys into the discipline of a team, there is a part of him he must sacrifice to the service of his teammates.
“It is important for a coach and his players to be of the same thinking – and for the players to play where they can really give their very best.
“I think everybody now knows that you perform much better if you are content and happy. If coming to training means a daily problem, that footballer is not going to express himself from the inside. And any player is surely at his happiest when you give him the ball.”
La Liga Pedigree
He’s been lambasted by sections of the Spanish media and rival fans, but Setien has proven his talents in La Liga.
When he agreed to take on the managerial duties at Las Palmas in autumn of 2015, the Canary Islands outfit were second from bottom in the top flight, with the supporters having resigned themselves to relegation after just a single season back in the big time.
Fast forward to May 2016, and the club comfortably clear of the dropzone, sitting pretty in 11th position. Another campaign flies by, and once again Las Palmas have secured a mid-table finish.
Guess what happened the year after Setien left? The side went straight back down to the second-tier.
Setien’s time at Betis was far from a disaster in terms of results, though there’s no doubt his greatest success with La Real was revolutionising their style, the team earning admirers for their intricate approach to matches.
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