Barcelona has sacked their manager Ernesto Valverde and replaced him with the former Real Betis coach Quique Setién.
Valverde, who had been in charge since the summer of 2017, becomes the first manager at the club to be sacked mid-season since Louis van Gaal 17 years ago. He leaves with Barcelona through to the knockout phase of the Champions League as group winners and top of La Liga, which they have won for each of the last two years.
He had six months left on his contract, plus the option for another year after that. Setién has been given a two-and-a-half-year contract until June 2022.
After days of openly pursuing replacements, Valverde was finally informed of the club’s intentions on Monday evening. During that time Xavi Hernández and Ronald Koeman, both of whom had expressed their desire to coach the club in the future, turned down the opportunity to take over with immediate effect.
Despite his sacking being an open secret by then, Valverde took charge of the Monday morning training session as normal, as his team returned to work after three days off.
“Dear Barça fans, My time as FC Barcelona coach has come to an end. It has been an intense two and a half years right from the start.
In that time I have enjoyed some joyful moments celebrating victories and trophies but also others that have been tough and difficult.
However, above all, I would like to highlight my experience with the fans and the affection showed towards me during my time as a coach”. He is expected to return on Tuesday morning to say goodbye.
Barcelona had hoped and expected to announce the signing of Setién and the departure of Valverde earlier. Reporters outside the Camp Nou following the board meeting they had been told that a statement was expected shortly and that a press conference would be held by the president and the sporting director the following morning.
A club statement read: “Barcelona and Ernesto Valverde have reached an agreement to terminate the contract that united both parties.
“The club publicly expresses its gratitude to Ernesto Valverde for his professionalism, his commitment, his dedication and his always positive treatment towards all that make up the Barça family. We wish him luck and success in the future.”
Valverde won two league titles and the Copa del Rey during his two years in charge but there was criticism of the way his side played and second-leg Champions League defeats at Roma and Liverpool when three-goal first-leg leads were lost in calamitous fashion, weighed heavily. No one fought for him to continue.
Indeed, it surprised many when Valverde signed a new contract last February and when he continued beyond the summer but at that point, he enjoyed the backing of the president.
For Setién, there is excitement. Aged 61, this is the job he most covets. A former coach of Las Palmas and Real Betis, Setién led the latter to a stunning 4-3 victory at the Camp Nou in which his team were judged to have ‘out-Barcelona’ Barcelona.
The former Spain international is committed to a style based on possession and technique, a professed admirer of Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi, and once said he would have cut off his finger to play for Johan Cruyff.
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