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.”


‘Fight Island’ concept debuts in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

Updated 11 July 2020

‘Fight Island’ concept debuts in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

  • Plan to be unveiled on Sunday with the staging of the 13-fight UFC 251 event on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island

DUBAI: When mixed martial arts supremo Dana White first floated his “Fight Island” concept, with its echoes of the Bruce Lee blockbuster “Enter the Dragon” where fighters were drawn into combat at a private getaway, eyebrows were raised.

“‘Fight Island’ is real. It’s a real thing,” said the Ultimate Fighting Championship boss when he announced the plan in April. “The infrastructure’s being built right now, and that’s really going to happen.”

White’s vision will be unveiled on Sunday with the staging of the 13-fight UFC 251 event on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

The event will be headlined by a welterweight world title encounter between the Nigerian-American champion Kamaru Usman and Cuban-American challenger Jorge Masvidal.

It’s one of four “Fight Island” cards to be staged without an audience inside an arena on the resort and entertainment island throughout July, kicking off with three world title bouts and a title challenge eliminator.

Usman said during a virtual media event that he had been impressed by what he’d seen since arriving in the UAE on Thursday.

“I’m grateful for everything that’s been done,” said Usman, gunning for the second defense of his title. “All the precautions have been taken. After I go out there on Saturday and get my hand raised I’ll be glad to be heading home COVID-free.”

The UFC has made the move to Abu Dhabi from its Las Vegas base in an effort to isolate its fighters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Safety has been a major motivator, as has the promoter’s need to keep staging events — and collecting revenue — during a crisis that has shut down or forced massive overhauls to the staging of the world’s major sporting events.

Strict lockdown measures have been imposed on athletes, their entourages, officials, staff and media for the duration of their stay on Yas Island, on a site that has been completely sealed off until the event concludes on July 26.

Tests were taken before people arrived — initial headliner Gilbert Burns of Brazil failed, and stayed home, Masvidal’s coach Mike Brown suffered the same fate — and after landing there has been more testing, and 48 hours in-room quarantine.

“We were able to lock away with some mats and pads in our room and keep training as much as we could,” said Russian welterweight Muslim Salikhov, who fights Brazil’s Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in Sunday’s preliminaries.

“The main thing everyone is saying is that we are here, and we are ready to fight because that’s what we do for a living.”

Abu Dhabi’s executive director of tourism and marketing, Ali Al-Shaiba, said protocols were stringent in the expansive “safe zone,” patrolled by police and expected to house around 2,000 people for the duration of the month-long event. Staff will be tested every 72 hours.