BARCELONA – Quique Setien said on Tuesday his new role as head coach of FC Barcelona was a dream come true.
The former Real Betis coach made no secret of his excitement to take on a role at one of the world’s biggest clubs. A team that is currently top of Spain’s La Liga, safely through to the knock-out round of the Champions League and still vying for the Copa del Rey.
“This is something I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams.
“Yesterday, I was walking by some cows in my town and today I’m at the training ground at Barcelona, coaching the best players in the world for a huge team I’ll never be able to improve upon,” the 61-year-old from Santander said.
Setien’s unveiling comes as the club tries to steady the ship following the whirlwind, mid-season sacking of Ernesto Valverde, who still had six months left on a contract he inked in 2017.
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu took a volley of questions at the presser about how Valverde’s dismissal was handled could reflect on the club.
“I would have liked things to happen in a different way, but things happened as they happened,” the president said. He added that the board of directors knew that the dynamic of the club under Valverde has been “improvable.”
Media speculation hit fever pitch late Monday when Barcelona announced and then delayed a “comunicat oficial.”
Bartomeu insisted that Valverde and members of the board were friends.
The Basque former head coach won two La Liga titles during his tenure and leaves the club in the top spot of the domestic league and with eyes still on the top trophy in Europe but the first half of this season is earmarked with several lackluster performances, including losses to Levante, Granada and Athletic Bilbao.
In a farewell statement, Valverde said: “It has been an intense two and half years right from the start.”
“In that time, I have enjoyed some joyful moments of celebration victories and trophies but also others that have been tough and difficult.”
He wished his successor “all the luck in the world.”
Setien, who also paid his respects to Valverde, suggested Barcelona’s 3-2 loss against Atletico Madrid in the SuperCopa semifinal last week could have precipitated the regime change.
The former Racing Santander player said he would build on Valverde’s contribution to the team, adding he believed the players would find it easy to slip into his new style of coaching, which could include formations changes.
One of the pressing challenges for Setien will be how to compensate for the absence of prolific goalscorer Luis Suarez, who has been ruled out for four months following a knee operation.
The new coach briefly met with the players at the Sant Joan Despi training ground and insisted they would have little trouble picking up on his playing style.
The man who at the beginning of the week was strolling by farm animals in his hometown will be getting ready to train the likes of Lionel Messi, Antione Griezmann and Gerard Pique ahead of his first game in charge at the Camp Nou against Granada on 19 January.
Before the press conference, Setien penned his name on a contract until 20 June 2022.