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From cow fields to Camp Nou, Setien aims high

Last updated on: January 15, 2020 12:53 IST

Coach Quique Setien at a FC Barcelona training session on Tuesday

IMAGE: Coach Quique Setien at a FC Barcelona training session on Tuesday. Photograph: BCCI

Quique Setien is more used to navigating his way through a field of cows rather than taking centre stage on one of the world's most famous pitches but the new Barcelona coach has pledged to bring an uncompromising attacking style of play to the Catalans.         

Since he has spent most of his coaching career in Spain's lower leagues, no one would blame Setien if he felt rather nervous at the prospect of taking charge of a team overflowing with some of the world's most expensive footballing talent.

 

But Setien is eager to prove that his modest coaching past will not stop him from making his mark with the Spanish champions and at Camp Nou.

"Yesterday I was walking next to cows in my village and today I was at Barcelona's training ground coaching the best players in the world," said the 61-year-old, who takes over from Ernesto Valverde and has signed a contract until June 2022.

"This is an enormous club and it'll never get better than this. I would never have imagined being here even in my wildest dreams so I want to show my gratitude for being given this chance and convey my excitement for taking on this challenge."

Barca have won the last two editions of La Liga and currently lead the standings but decided to sack Valverde on Monday after growing tired with the team's recent uninspiring performances.

Setien was a surprise choice to take the vacant role due to his low profile outside of Spain, although his reputation as an attacking ideologue has excited fans who feel their team have lost their swagger.

"My objective is to win everything there is to win and for me there is no better way to do that by improving each year. The surest path to victory is by playing well, it's important to remember that," Setien added.

"I have very clear ideas, I listen to everyone but it's difficult to convince me to change my ways. I am my team's biggest defender and I'll die with my ideas."

Newly appointed Barcelona coach Quique Setien has not won any trophies with his previous clubs

IMAGE: Newly appointed Barcelona coach Quique Setien has not won any trophies with his previous clubs. Photograph: Stephane Mahe/File photo/Reuters

Setien got his first top-flight job with Las Palmas in 2015 but rose to prominence in a two-year spell with Real Betis which included masterminding a 4-3 victory away to Barca.

The coach also said he would take a keen interest in the club's famed academy, which has produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique although few youngsters have managed to break into the first team of late.

"I have a passion for bringing in young players," he added.

"When a young lad comes into the team he brings with him a new energy and the top players know they cannot afford to relax."

Setien was named Barcelona coach late on Monday, tasked with the job of restoring the club’s iconic passing style, but the appointment represents a huge gamble for the Catalans given the 61-year-old's lack of success at the highest level.

While his predecessor Ernesto Valverde won two La Liga titles in two years and has the team top once again at the halfway point this season, Setien, apart from some success in Spain’s third tier in 2011, has no coaching honours to his name.

His best La Liga finish was as Real Betis coach in 2018, taking them to sixth and qualifying for the Europa League, but he parted ways with them last season as the team ended up 10th.

The former Racing Santander and Atletico Madrid midfielder’s tactical nous was lost at the helm of Betis, with fans turning against him despite the attacking possession football he played, seeking more passion and less precision.

However, in a stylistic sense at least, Setien should fit in perfectly at Barcelona having been inspired by Johan Cruyff’s side while playing against them in the late 1980s.

"I remember when Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona came along,” Setien told The Coach’s Voice.

"From then on, I started to make sense of what I had felt throughout life, through my career.

"I started to really watch football. To analyse it. To understand what I felt, and what I wanted to put into practice when I became a coach."

After the Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova era, Barcelona began to lose some of their swagger while still picking up trophies at an impressive rate.

Under Luis Enrique and then Valverde the focus shifted from teamwork to the individual, with elite players such as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez becoming increasingly important.

Setien, a chess enthusiast who had often been linked with the Barcelona job in the past, must rearrange the pieces to give the Catalans their identity back.

As Valverde discovered, domestic silverware is not enough at Barcelona. Fans demand Champions League success as well as quality performances.

Setien delivered an example of what his sides are capable of last season when Betis beat Barcelona 4-3 at Camp Nou -- the first team in two years to triumph there and also the last side to do so.

If that was the coach’s job interview, he passed.

 

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