Quique Setien was unveiled as new Barcelona manager on Tuesday, and should you believe his first words as boss, the “emotional” 61-year-old was preparing himself to wake up from this dream.
“Yesterday, I was walking around my hometown past the cows, and now I’m here at Barcelona managing the best players in the world,” Setien said when asked about his new job.
“Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. I am a person who is emotional about things, and I am very excited and happy to be here.”
It’s real. Barcelona plucked the Santander-born former Spanish international from Real Betis after the clunky dismissal of Ernesto Valverde. The club sits top of the La Liga table and is in good Champions League standing, but still wanted more from Valverde. After publicly courting Xavi, Ronald Koeman, and Mauricio Pochettino, Barcelona eventually settled on Setien.
“I want to thank Ernesto Valverde for leaving me with a side that is top of the league,” Setien said. “My objective is to win everything! Everything you can win, this club has no other path to follow.”
If anyone knows where Barcelona can improve, it’s Setien, who is the last manager to beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou, with victory coming back in November of 2018.
“Every time a new manager comes in, there is a stimulus for everyone inside the dressing room,” Setien said of his arrival. “You notice it immediately. This stimulus that we saw in the session today, we need to maintain that and I have never met a coach who is the same. Many people say ‘this coach is exactly the same’, but the reality is we are all very different. I am very clear as to what Barca needs. I’ve seen this from outside, we’ve watched them and analyzed them. There are a lot of things we are very clear about and we will try to transmit that. These are just words, though, and we want things that are long-lasting.”
Setien no doubt has his work cut out for him. Barcelona looked flawed in the final few months of Valverde’s tenure, and whether that’s the former boss’s fault or not is up for debate, the issues with the squad are clear as day. While Lionel Messi remains as electric as ever at 32 years old, the longtime backbone of Barcelona is fading, with Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique both clearly in decline. Frenkie de Jong is holding down the midfield in his first season with the club, but Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal have struggled with form at times this year.
Barcelona is atop the La Liga table, but Real Madrid is level on points. The there is still the full Champions League knockout stage and the entire Copa de Rey to navigate. The 3-2 Supercopa loss to Atletico Madrid was a harsh final straw for Valverde, but the club has moved on to pastures anew, and now Setien leaves his hometown cows behind to take one of the biggest jobs in the world.