New Barcelona coach Quique Setien arrives with a reputation for prizing the ball above everything and will likely look to continue the principles installed at the Camp Nou by legendary former blaugrana figure Johan Cruyff.
The former Lugo, Las Palmas and Real Betis boss takes over from Ernesto Valverde on the Barça bench with the reigning LaLiga Santander champions sitting joint-top of the current table alongside Real Madrid.
Although he never featured for Barça during his playing career, Setien has made no secret that Cruyff has been the biggest influence on his own personal coaching philosophy.
The former midfielder, who hails from Santander on Spain’s northern coast, regularly came up against Cruyff’s Barcelona side while making 200 LaLiga appearances as a playmaking midfielder with hometown club Racing Santander, Atletico de Madrid and Logroñes, even helped Racing to a famous 5-0 win over the Catalans during the 1994/95 season.
The 61-year-old has worked his way back to the top during a coaching career which started with a season in charge of Racing, and also included a spell as Equatorial Guinea national coach. His methods were really developed during six years in charge of Lugo, who he established in LaLiga SmartBank (LaLiga’s second tier) for the first time in the small Galician club’s history.
From there it was on to Las Palmas, where Setien’s attractive passing philosophy really came to wider attention. That team won many admirers for their bravery in playing the ball out from the back through midfield, while also avoiding a relegation many thought inevitable.
Summer 2017 saw Setien make the move to Real Betis, who he guided to sixth place in LaLiga and Europa League qualification in his first season in charge. And who could forget November 2018’s thrilling 4-3 victory over Barcelona at the Camp Nou, the match which turned out to only home LaLiga defeat of Valverde’s two and half season reign as blaugrana coach. Barça fans who follow possession statistics closely will also know that Betis’ 82.4% during a win over Leganes in October 2018 is the highest in LaLiga over the last six years.
Last year also saw Betis win at the Santiago Bernabeu for the second consecutive season, making Setien the only rival coach to oversee wins away at both Real Madrid and Barça over the last 10 seasons.
Nevertheless, it was decided that Setien part company with Betis at the end of the campaign. “The team has gained an identity and this is almost above defeats or victories, it is tremendously important,” he said as he departed.
Setien has now signed a contract with Barcelona until 30th June 2022, with his first game being Sunday evening’s LaLiga clash against Granada at the Camp Nou. The tests then come quick and fast, with away trips to Valencia and Real Madrid in the coming weeks.
Mid-season managerial changes are never easy but one thing is clear; the fact that Setien’s approach fits so well with the footballing philosophy dominant at the Camp Nou over the decades will be a great help.