In Brief

Barcelona fire coach Valverde and appoint Setien

Manager may have paid the price for Champions League defeat last season

Barcelona sack Valverde

Barcelona have sacked manager Ernesto Valverde and he will be replaced by Quique Setien, who has been given a deal until June 2022.

The dismissal of Valverde – the first coach to be sacked by Barcelona mid-season since they gave Louis van Gaal the boot in January 2003 – highlights the weight of expectations at the Camp Nou. The Catalan club lead La Liga on goal difference from Real Madrid, and they have progressed to the Last 16 of the Champions League as group winners, but recent results haven’t been good, and last week they lost to Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup.

Liverpool to blame?

Nonetheless, Valverde might have thought he had built up enough credit in the bank since replacing Luis Enrique in 2017. He has won back-to-back league titles since arriving in Barcelona, as well as Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup titles, but there is a growing feeling within the club that he’s not the man to re-establish the club as Europe’s dominant club.

According to Spanish paper Marca, Valverde’s fate was sealed last season by the manner of the semi-final defeat against Liverpool in the Champions League, which they describe as “continental shame”.

It’s now five years since Barcelona won the Champions League and the board believe change is required sooner rather than later.

Setien in hotseat

But is Setien the right man for the job? The 61-year-old has a modest CV, having coached Las Palmas and Real Betis in recent seasons, and he was sacked from the latter six months ago.

He’ll also be without striker Luis Suarez for the rest of the season with the Uruguayan ace sidelined with a serious knee injury. Sky Sports reports that Barcelona are looking at replacements, and although they have their eye on Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez they will have to meet his £95m (€111m) release clause

Reaction to Valverde’s dismissal

Gary Lineker: “Wish him well. Won @LaLigaEN last two years. Currently top of the table. Expectations run high at @FCBarcelona. Mes que un club [More than a club].”

Former Barca star Andres Iniesta: “The way the club have gone about things is a little ugly”.

Marca”Valverde doesn’t deserve this - something we all agree on - to be belittled like he has been in last few days. But Barcelona, the institution - not the board - didn’t deserve Valverde in the last few months.”

BBC Sport’s Spanish football expert Andy West: “Setien – whose stubborn nature makes him a divisive figure across Spain – is a devout disciple of Cruyffian football, and from now on it is certain that Barca will once again play ‘Barca’ football. Whether they can play it well, though, is another matter.”

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