Barca count cost of gamble on Setien

  • Football
  • Tuesday, 18 Aug 2020

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - FC Barcelona Training - Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal - August 13, 2020 FC Barcelona coach Quique Setien before training Manu Fernandez/Pool via REUTERS

BARCELONA (Reuters) - In the wake of Barcelona's 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich to exit the Champions League, Spanish newspaper Sport declared that coach Quique Setien could not remain at the club 'for one more day' after presiding over such a historic humiliation.

The newspaper got their way as Setien was sacked on Monday, the first casualty of the Bayern bloodbath. But the fact that the 61-year-old was ever handed the keys to the Camp Nou should be regarded as one of the club's biggest ever mistakes.

In a move that seemed to sum up the club's motto of 'More than a Club', last January Barca took the surprising decision to sack Ernesto Valverde, whose side were top of La Liga at the time and had swept to back-to-back Spanish titles.

Merely winning matches and trophies, the decision seemed to suggest, was no longer deemed good enough for a club that prides itself on producing top-class entertainment on the pitch.

But after being rejected by Xavi Hernandez and Ronald Koeman, Barca landed on Setien, who had never won a trophy and bizarrely remarked in his presentation that he got the call to coach Barca while strolling among cows in the countryside.

His previous biggest job was with Real Betis, where he presided over spectacular wins against the likes of Real Madrid, Barca and AC Milan but was ultimately sacked after a poor second season which saw him face mass protests from supporters.

An engaging and often idealistic coach, Setien was chosen due to his devotion to the coaching philosophy of Barca's iconic Johan Cruyff but he quickly proved to be hopelessly behind the times as the club's gamble badly backfired.

His side often served up soporific football that was slow and ponderous and frequently failed to win the games that mattered most, something Valverde usually managed, even if the football was not always exciting.

Setien's Barca lost to Valencia and Real Madrid while drawing with Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Celta Vigo, the latter three results coming in the final stretch of the season as they meekly surrendered the title to Real.

They did manage one outstanding performance in a 4-1 win over Villarreal but that was very much the exception that proved the rule, and another disappointment was just around the corner as the team lost 2-1 at home to Osasuna.

The usually softly-spoken and shy Lionel Messi let rip after that game, appearing to blame Setien for the team's predicament as he declared: "Ever since January it has been all bad."

Messi finished his tirade by declaring Barca had no hope of winning the Champions League but surely not even he could have predicted his team would be beaten so brutally by Bayern.

But perhaps Setien's disastrous performance in the Champions League should have come as no surprise.

After all, he had never taken charge of a game in Europe's top competition before leaving the serene countryside and grazing cows for the bear pit that is the Barca job.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ian Chadband and Christian Radnedge)

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