Emotional Setien surprised to be given dream job at Barcelona

Quique Setien with FC Barcelona’s President Josep Maria Bartomeu, center, and director of football Eric Abidal, right, after being introduced as the club’s new coach at the Camp Nou stadium. (AP Photo)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Emotional Setien surprised to be given dream job at Barcelona

  • Setien was unveiled at a press conference at the Camp Nou after the club’s announcement that he would replace the sacked Ernesto Valverde
  • Setien takes charge after an impressive spell at Real Betis, which ended last summer, and with Barcelona top of La Liga

BARCELONA: Quique Setien said on Tuesday that being appointed Barcelona coach was beyond his “wildest dreams” and has vowed to stay true to his beliefs in exciting, attacking football.
Setien was unveiled at a press conference at the Camp Nou, after the club’s announcement late on Monday that he would replace the sacked Ernesto Valverde.
“Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being here, I am quite an emotional person and today is a special day for me,” Setien said after signing his contract in front of the media.
“Yesterday I was walking past cows in my village and today I am at Barca, coaching the best players in the world. This is the pinnacle for me.”
Sitting alongside Setien was club president Josep Maria Bartomeu and sporting director Eric Abidal.
Bartomeu admitted the dismissal of Valverde should have been handled better and also revealed Setien’s contract until June 2022 contains a break clause. It means Setien can be removed in 2021 after the club’s presidential elections.
Setien takes charge after an impressive spell at Real Betis, which ended last summer, and with Barcelona top of La Liga.
A former player for Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander, Setien once said he would cut off his little finger to have played under Johan Cruyff. As a coach, he has dedicated his career to a possesion-based style that has earned him a reputation as a purist.
“I didn’t need even five minutes to accept the job,” said Setien. “I never thought Barca would go for me. I don’t have a glittering CV or many titles but I have demonstrated even before being a coach that I love a certain philosophy.
“And all I have done is ensure my previous teams have all played good football. I don’t know if that was enough to earn me this opportunity but I am grateful for it, nothing else.”
Setien added: “I am a person with clear convictions. I have very clear ideas. I listen to everyone but I am the first to defend what I believe. If we have to die with our ideas, we will die with them because Barca has to follow its path.”
Setien will be without Luis Suarez, who will need four months to recover from a knee injury, but he has Lionel Messi, who has scored 16 goals in 20 games this season.
“To start coaching the best player in the world and the players around him, I’m still not sure what that means,” said Setien.
“I have talked to him and some others and I have already told him about the admiration I feel for him.”
Valverde won La Liga in each of his two seasons in charge but Bartomeu said the club needed a boost.
“We knew the dynamic was not the best even if the results were very good,” said Bartomeu. “We have made the change now because we are in the middle of the season and we needed a boost. With this new dynamic we want to win the league, the Champions League and the cup.”
Barcelona have been accused of a lack of respect for Valverde after their seach for a replacement, including offering the job to Xavi Hernandez, was widely reported over the weekend.
“Of course I wish things had been done differently,” Bartomeu said. “But in recent weeks and months we have spoken to other coaches, it’s always like that, and nothing has come out.”


Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

Updated 21 January 2020

Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

  • High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire

CAIRO: There is little doubt that the switch by the Africa Cup of Nations from summer to winter competition will have a big impact on European competitions, with those at the top of the Premier League perhaps most affected.

The confederation confirmed that from 2021 when Cameroon will play host, the tournament will revert back to being played in January and February.

The tournament was moved to a June-July slot for last year’s edition in Egypt, which meant minimal disruption to the European domestic season. But plenty of Premier League managers will be left with problems this time next year, with several stars likely to leave for up to six weeks, including pre-tournament preparations.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp appears to face the biggest headache given that two of his star attacking players, Mohamed Salah from Egypt and Sadio Mane from Senegal, both featured in the African tournament last summer and are almost certain to be involved in the 2021 competition in some capacity.

High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire, while Manchester City will lose Riyad Mahrez should Algeria feature.

Klopp is critical of the decision to move the tournament dates, calling it “a catastrophe.” Salah and Mane’s absence would leave huge gaps in the Liverpool side. There is also Cameroon’s Joel Matip and Guinea’s Naby Keita to worry about. Matip has become solid at the back. Keita, too, would be a loss given his recent resurgence.

The Liverpool manager is upset because last year’s tournament was moved to mid-year to end a long-standing clash between clubs and countries over the release of their players. It was felt that common sense had prevailed when the tournament, which since 1960 had always been held during winter, reverted to summer. African players in western European clubs would no longer find themselves the target of competing claims for their attention every other season, which would benefit the players and their clubs and countries, and lead to fewer squabbles.

But then Cameroon changed its mind about hosting the tournament in summer next year, changing the dates from June and July to between Jan. 6 and Feb. 6. Why? The weather. It’s simply too hot in Cameroon in summer.

Organizers said they had agreed to the change after discussions with player and coach representatives.

But didn’t Cameroon know beforehand that its summers are too hot, too humid and right in the middle of its rainy season? That the country does not enjoy ideal conditions for football in summer could not have taken its organizers by complete surprise.

The situation serves as a vivid reminder of the botch-up of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. The host and FIFA decided that the World Cup, which is forever played in summer, would be moved to winter because of Qatar’s oppressive heat — but that decision came only after Qatar won the bid. That change, again, will mean a head-on clash with international tournaments and club competitions.

A football tournament simply cannot keep changing when it will be held as often as people change their socks. This is especially true for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is played every two years.

A major sports tournament must have fixed times. And, to be sure, its organizers should understand that you can’t please everybody. A championship’s times are bound to clash with some tournament or other. The African tournament, for example, will avoid a clash with FIFA’s revamped 24-team Club World Cup to be played in China in June and July 2021. But it cannot but conflict with European leagues. The important thing is to stay the course. Once a date is picked, it should be stuck to like glue.