FC Barcelona have once again plucked a manager not from the superstar ranks but one they feel fits their philosophy. Quique Setién does not have the CV that most managers would have when taking over as club as big as this. He is chosen more because of his ability to get teams to play beautiful football than for winning trophies.
Who is Setién?
His real name is Enrique Setién, he’s 61, and from Santander, in Spain. He began his career as a midfielder for local club Racing Santander, where he became a regular from 1977 until 1985. He finished out his playing days going from Atlético Madrid, to Logroñés, back to Racing, and then ending his career at Levante in 1996. He made three appearances for the Spanish national team as well.
As a manager, he started his career at Racing somewhat by accident. He was their sporting director when they were in Segunda, taking over as manager after the coach was fired for bad results. He helped the team return to the top flight but faded into the background. He then took charge of Polideportivo Ejido, once again in Segunda. He was ultimately fired after only getting two wins in 15 matches. He then was an assistant coach for Russia’s national beach soccer team, and then eventually became Equatorial Guinea’s manager, but only for one game.
Another club he played for, Logroñés, took a chance on him and he managed them in the third division for a few months, but was ultimately fired for a poor run of results. His next adventure was at CD Lugo, a team he managed in the third division starting in June 2009. He helped the team achieve promotion in 2012, and he stayed on managing Lugo in the second division. He remained in charge for six seasons, with Setién leaving Lugo in Segunda still when he left in 2014. His first chance to manage in the top flight came for UD Las Palmas, after they sacked Paco Herrera. He took over a team that was in the relegation zone, but they improved under Setién.
He helped Las Palmas survive relegation in his first season, as they finished in a surprisingly strong 11th place that year. His management drew plaudits for getting the most out of the humble club and for playing entertaining football. The next season, he picked up where he left off and Las Palmas started out the year very strongly, even occupying some of the highest positions at the beginning of the term.
However, the end was not quite as strong, with Las Palmas only picking up four points out of the last ten matches. Despite that poor ending, Las Palmas finished a respectable 14th and remained in La Liga, often playing attractive football in the process.
Setién was rewarded for his work with Las Palmas by getting the Real Betis job the next season. Betis was a team that was looking for a man to lead their next project, which they hoped would take them from a relatively small club to one of Spain’s strongest. They had finished 15th without him, and in his first year at Betis, they finished 6th.
Now he was being talked about as one of the best coaches in La Liga, and fans were excited to see how the project would progress. Things looked good, with Betis playing an exciting brand of football. Setién’s men defeated Valverde’s Barcelona 4-3 in November 2018, which would be Valverde’s only home loss in his entire tenure. And Setién was linked with the Barcelona job early in 2019, for his ability to play attractive possession football and results.
However, the end of the season was not as strong. Betis did not win more than one game in a row for the entire second half of the season, until the very last two games. The fans turned on Setién, and he was eventually let go. Betis finished the year 10th in La Liga. They’re currently 13th under Rubi, so it’s a good question whether Betis did the right thing by letting Setién go.
The manager was without a club since then until Barcelona scooped him up the other day.
Setién has only four seasons of top-flight managerial experience, a complete contrast to Valverde, who despite being younger, had 15 years’ experience as a top-flight coach. In addition, Valverde had won the Spanish Supercup with Athletic Bilbao, as well as several trophies in the Greek league. Setién does not have any silverware as a manager, although he did pick up a Supercup as a player.
Setién is known for his spells at Las Palmas and Betis, in which he took unfancied teams and made them stronger and able to play a distinct way. Will he reach great heights now that he has been given the strongest squad he’s ever had?