What went wrong for Quique Setien at Barcelona?

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After surrendering the La Liga title to Real Madrid, Quique Setien’s Barcelona only had one thing in mind: winning the most prestigious competition in club football — the UEFA Champions League. 

They brushed Napoli aside in the Round of 16 quite comfortably, setting up a one-legged quarter-final clash with Bundesliga winners, Bayern Munich.

The two teams had a knack for creating lucrative matchups and no one expected anything less this time around. Of course, Barcelona weren’t on Bayern’s level, but the Lionel Messi-led side were expected to give the Bavarians a run for their money.

Sadly, the picture turned out to be a lot more gruesome than the Blaugrana had feared. They conceded eight goals in total — four in each half — scored one, got the gift of a David Alaba own-goal, and subjected to a 8-2 defeat.

The defeat, which marked Barcelona’s worst in history, also hinted the inevitable dismissal of their hopeless coach, Quique Setien. However, truth be told, there wasn’t much he could do about it. 

Quique Setien was destined to fail

On the 13th of January, midway through the 2019-20 La Liga campaign, Barcelona appointed promising Real Betis coach, Quique Setien.

Setien led Betis to a disappointing 10th-place finish in the previous campaign, but that didn’t stop Barcelona from going all out for the Spaniard. Wasting no time, the club offered him a deal until June 2022. 

Quique Setien’s all-out, light-hearted attacking football was the deciding factor for Barcelona, as the club were just looking for a way out of former coach, Ernesto Valverde’s “negative football.”

They didn’t pay much attention to Setien’s dressing room presence, whether he had the quality to keep the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Gerard Pique in line. 

Setien — the advocate of Johan Cruyff’s footballing philosophy — kicked off his Barcelona career with a humble 1-0 home win over Granada. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but Barcelona did show a few flashes of brilliance, which, at the time, were a welcome change. 

In the next La Liga encounter, which was meant to be Setien’s first hurdle as Barcelona coach, the defending champions suffered a 2-0 defeat at Valencia.

The team were thoroughly outplayed in all departments, and Quique Setien, only a couple of weeks after his appointment, was subjected to harsh criticism. 

Only over a month later, Setien got the chance to set the record straight at the Santiago Bernabeu. A win over title challengers and bitter rivals, Real Madrid, was bound to be an appropriate redemption, but here, too, he failed to prove his mettle.

Goals from Vinicius Jr and Mariano Diaz gave Real Madrid a 2-0 win over their bitterest foes, allowing them to take Barcelona’s spot at the summit. 

After the restart, Barcelona dropped nine points in the final 11 La Liga fixtures, which saw Real Madrid clinch the league title, finish five points ahead of Barcelona. 

Quique Setien already had one foot out of the door after the slip-up in the first division. The humiliation against Bayern in the Champions League only confirmed the inevitable. On the 17th of August, Barcelona formally thanked Setien for his services and relieved him of his responsibilities. 

He didn’t do much wrong, we believe. It was only a case of incompatibility. It was only the clear case of appointing the wrong man for the job, giving him more responsibility than he could handle.

Real Madrid went through something similar, last season, but they still had dressing room harmony even in the darkest of times. Barcelona, on the other hand, suffer from the lop-sided powerplay between coach and players.

The Blaugrana needed someone who could make the players believe in the cause, make them look at the bigger picture. Barcelona needed someone who demanded respect out of some of the most decorated players in the business.

Lionel Messi’s team needed a perfect blend of man-management and technical prowess. Sadly for all parties involved, Quique Setien was the furthest thing from the picture — a misfit who had to endure the roughest patch of his career at one of the greatest clubs in the world.

Also Read: Inter Milan 5-0 Shakhtar Donetsk: 5 things we learned | UEL 2019-20

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