At Barcelona, Setién to lead the club he has long admired

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 1, 2017 file photo, Las Palmas coach Quique Setien waits for the start of a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real ...

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 1, 2017 file photo, Las Palmas coach Quique Setien waits for the start of a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real ...

MADRID (AP) — Before a match against Barcelona at the Camp Nou more than a year ago, then-Real Betis coach Quique Setién asked Sergio Busquets for his game shirt.

He said he wanted it with a written dedication, so he could frame it.

The Barcelona midfielder complied, later sending Setíen an autographed jersey with the message: “For Quique, with love and admiration for your way of looking at football. All the best.”

Real Betis won that match 4-3 in November 2018, marking the last time a team defeated Barcelona at Camp Nou.

Setíen will be back at the famous stadium on Tuesday, more than 14 months later, to be officially introduced as the coach of Barcelona, the club that for so long inspired his vision of soccer. He will sign a contract until 2022.

The 61-year-old Spaniard often tried to get his teams to mimic Barcelona’s ball-possession and attacking-minded style, and now he will get to do it himself at the Catalan club.

“Throughout his career he has been a proponent of possession-based, attacking football that has been attractive to the fans,” Barcelona said on Monday after announcing Setién as Ernesto Valverde’s replacement.

Valverde was let go four days after a loss to Atlético Madrid in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup. Barcelona had also drawn three of its last four Spanish league games.

Barcelona's next game is Sunday at home against Granada in the Spanish league.

Setién, who Barcelona called “one of the most experienced coaches in Spanish football,” said most of his soccer knowledge comes from watching and playing against a Johan Cruyff-led Barcelona. He once said he would sacrifice his pinky to play for Cruyff at the Catalan club.

He also called Lionel Messi a “luxury and the best player in history.”

Setién inherits Valverde's team in first place at the halfway point of the Spanish league season, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference. In a few weeks, Barcelona will take on Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League, a competition it hasn’t won since 2015.

Setién had been with Betis since 2017 until deciding to take some time off at the end of last season. He led the Seville club to sixth place in the league in his first season, and to the Copa del Rey semifinals in his second season.

He previously coached smaller Spanish clubs such as Racing Santander, Las Palmas and Lugo, where he failed to win any significant titles but helped some of them gain promotion from lower divisions. He also had a very brief stint with Equatorial Guinea’s national team, which he coached in one game.

A former midfielder, Setién spent most of his playing career with Racing Santander, though it was with Atlético Madrid that he won the 1985 Spanish Super Cup. Barcelona said he began playing in beach soccer, eventually making it to Spain’s national team in the sport.

He faced Barcelona 22 times as a player, scoring two goals in a stint of five wins, five draws and 12 losses. As a coach, he lost six of the seven games against the Catalan club, with the lone win coming in the match in which he also got Busquets’ jersey.


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