Ernesto Valverde’s tenure as coach of Barcelona ended after he was fired by the club on Monday and replaced by former Real Betis manager Quique Setien on the Camp Nou bench, the team announced.
Setien received a contract that runs until the 2022 season. Barça was eager to offer him the role until the end of the season with the option of extending it for an additional 12 months in the summer, but his agent, Edoardo Crnjar, pressed for a longer agreement.
Setien, 61, will take over a Barcelona team that sits on top of the League and is safe in the Champions League qualifying rounds, where he will face the Italian Napoli team in the last 16.
Valverde’s position became unsustainable over the weekend after the defeat of the Spanish Super Cup of Barcelona against Atlético de Madrid.
The open search for the club of former captain Xavi Hernández, who rejected the opportunity to return as coach on Sunday, left Valverde’s future hanging by a thread.
Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu met with Valverde at the club’s training ground on Monday, where he had previously practiced with players before Sunday’s game against Granada.
Bartomeu then traveled to Camp Nou, where he met with other members of the club hierarchy to ratify Valverde’s dismissal and finalize the terms of Setien’s appointment.
Sid Lowe says that Quique Setien will be embraced by the purists of Barcelona because of his playing style.
Al-Sadd chief Xavi, who left Barça to go to Qatar in 2015, had been the first option to take over, but, after two days of talks with sports director Eric Abidal and CEO Oscar Grau in Doha During the weekend, Xavi told them the time was not right. He remains open to return in the future.
The list of possible replacements that were later linked to the role was extensive. Ronald Koeman, Mauricio Pochettino and García Pimienta were among those mentioned, but it was Setien who the club decided to turn to in the end.
The Spanish coach has had a discreet career to date, involving spells with Betis, Las Palmas, Lugo and Logrones, but he has won many fans in recent years for his football style, which Barça feels fits his philosophy.
It will be the first time since 2002-03 that the Blaugrana They have made the drastic decision to change their coach mid-season. On that occasion, Louis van Gaal was replaced by Radomir Antic with the 12th team in La Liga.
Valverde, 55, replaced Luis Enrique in the summer of 2017. His first season produced a league and cup double, but the campaign was contaminated by a surprising elimination of the Champions League against Rome, with the Italians canceling a first leg 4-1. defeat to advance to the semifinal.
The former Athletic Bilbao coach also won the league title in his second season, but the year ended with many people asking him to be fired after another debacle of the Champions League, this time against Liverpool, followed by a defeat final of the Copa del Rey against Valencia.
However, Bartomeu, in the midst of the lack of alternative options, decided to support his coach.
However, while Barcelona is at the top of the League and remains in the Champions League, the performance of the teams this season has seen more criticism about Valverde.
The defeats in Athletic, Granada and Levante in the league further weakened their position, with the players, who were always behind their coach in public, beginning to lose confidence in him.
This month’s 2-2 draw at the Espanyol lower club sounded more alarms. And the nature of the defeat of Thursday’s Super Cup against Atlético de Madrid in Saudi Arabia, when Barça really produced a much better performance before falling apart in the last 10 minutes, showed the drop that broke the glass when the discontent of the Fans increased. Fans mocked Valverde loudly in Jeddah.
The sources told ESPN after that loss that Valverde’s work remained safe and that the players, including Lionel Messi, backed him later, but the overwhelming feeling among the club’s hierarchy was that it was time for a change that finally forced Bartomeu to act.