Barcelona also met with Xavi, but the former midfielder refused to take the step.

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Spanish champions FC Barcelona, on Monday, sacked Ernesto Valverde after a string of poor results and former Real Betis manager Quique Setien was roped in as his replacement.

Barcelona, who sit on top of the La Liga table on goal difference, were knocked out of the Spanish Super Cup by Atletico Madrid; and this is when things went south for Valverde. Despite being on top, Barcelona’s form – especially in the league – has been subpar, to say the least.

The club, in fact, has only won two of their last five games and have lost out to Athletic, Granada and Levante away earlier in the league. In return, Barca opened talks with Xavi Hernandez, but eventually decided to go with Setien, as the former midfielder believed it wasn’t the right time for him to get into the fray. He, however, kept the doors open for the future.

The initial offer for Setien, 61, was thought to be until the end of the season, but his agent demanded for a longer deal, and thus a two-and-a-half-year contract was signed. The 61-year-old’s managerial profile has been low-key thus far, having managed the likes of Betis, Las Palmas, Lugo and Logrones in the past. His style of play, however, was what impressed the club’s hierarchy.

Barcelona players, especially Sergio Busquets, happen to be admirers of Setien. Busquets, in fact, presented him a short message after one of Betis’ visits to Camp Nou with a message, "For Quique with love and admiration for your way of looking at football. All the best." 

Valverde took over Barcelona from Luis Enrique in 2017 and guided the club to a league double. His tenure though was marred by a shocking defeat to AS Roma in the Champions League semi-final where the Italian club made a stunning comeback after being 4-1 down in the first leg.

He defended his league title in the subsequent season, but was once again punished in the Champions League – this time by Liverpool – and also lost the Copa del Rey final against Valencia.

As for Barcelona, the club kept the likes of Ronald Koeman, Mauricio Pochettino and Garcia Pimienta in consideration, but opted to go with Setien. And it will be the first time since the 2002-03 season that the club decided to make the managerial changes midway through the season. Back then, Radomir Antic replaced Louis van Gaal.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Isabella Bonotto