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.”


Al-Hilal overcome Al-Nassr in Riyadh Derby to go clear at the top of Saudi Professional League

Updated 24 November 2020

Al-Hilal overcome Al-Nassr in Riyadh Derby to go clear at the top of Saudi Professional League

  • The two fierce rivals will meet for a rematch this weekend in the delayed final of the 2019-20 King’s Cup

The first Riyadh derby of the 2020-21 Saudi Professional League season went the way of the reigning champions, as Al-Hilal overcame last season’s runners-up, Al-Nassr, 2-0 at King Saud University Stadium.

The result highlighted the contrasting starts by the two clubs to the new campaign. Al-Hilal started the match joint top of the table with Al-Shabab, on 10 points. Al-Nassr, on the other hand, have endured a nightmare start to the season. After three losses and only one win, they started the day in lowly 13th position on only three points.

The match was given some added spice by the fact that the fierce rivals will meet again on Saturday in the delayed final of the 2019-20 King’s Cup.

Despite their plight, Al-Nassr started the brighter of the teams, with the home side strangely wasteful in possession. However, the first real chance of the half fell to Al-Hilal on 15 minutes. Bafetimbi Gomis exchanged passes with Sebastian Giovinco, only to side-foot the ball wide from an inviting position.

Al-Nassr hit back on 28 minutes when the excellent Sultan Al-Ghanam’s stinging shot was saved by Habib Al-Wotayan, as the visitors continued to frequently threaten the champions. Neither club showed anywhere near enough of a cutting edge to break the first-half deadlock, however.

At half-time, Abderrazak Hamdallah — the league’s top scorer for the past two seasons, and with four goals in Riyadh derbies to his name — replaced Khalid Al-Ghannam in an attempt to bolster Al-Nassr’s attack.

It was the home team that got the first big break of the second period, however, when a penalty was awarded on 56 minutes for a foul on Al-Hilal’s Argentinian forward, Luciano Vietto.

Gomis stepped up to calmly, in his inimitable style, to put the spot kick past Brad Jones and give Razvan Lucescu’s team a lead they would not relinquish.

Just after the hour, Al-Nassr coach Rui Vitoria responded by throwing on Moroccan star Nordin Amrabat for Abdullah Al-Khaibari and Ali Al-Hassan for Abdulmajeed Al-Sulayhem.

The double substitution looked to have paid dividends within a few minutes as Pity Martinez’s hanging cross was tapped on by Ayman Yahya for Amrabat to finish from close range. But after the video assistant referee was consulted, the goal was disallowed for an earlier offside.

With 10 minutes left, Al-Hilal brought on Syrian international Omar Kharbin in the hope of settling the match, while Al-Nassr went for broke at the other end.

With eight minutes of stoppage time added, the match remained on knife edge until, with seconds left, Gomis put Saleh Al-Shehri through on goal and the Saudi international finished with style to put the result beyond doubt.

Al-Hilal defender Ali Al-Bulaihi was glad to get a tough match out of the way before the two teams meet again in the cup final next weekend.

“The match was not easy and we dedicate it to our coach, who set up the team for this win,” he said. “We are 10 points clear and we can put aside the league for a while now as we concentrate on the King’s Cup final. Of course, the win gives us a big push in the final.”

He dedicated the clean sheet to absent goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, and added: “The coach had told us not to force things, that the goal could come at any time. That’s exactly what happened. We were not in a hurry and, more importantly, we didn’t concede either.”

The man who replaced Al-Mayouf in goal, Al-Motayan, was pleased to keep a clean sheet in his first derby, and thanked his teammates for their solid defensive performance.

“I found out I was playing one day before the match but we prepared for Al-Nassr like every other opponent — the most important thing was getting the three points,” he said. “My colleagues helped men a lot during the match and I can say I had complete support from the players, coaches and board.”

Vitoria was happy with his team’s performance but not with the manner of the defeat, revealing that Hamdallah and Amrabat were not fit to play the whole match after the international break.

“We can’t have players play if they are not completely ready to play the whole 90 — maybe 45 is ok. This is football,” he said.

“In the first half we played a good game, tactically. My team did not allow any chances for the opposition. We had seven shots, they had two. In the second half we were better — and, in fact, in the whole match we were better. But some of the details, like the penalty, made the difference.

“They had more possession in the first half but we allowed that. No, I’m not satisfied because we did not win. We fought and played well. The result is one thing and the performance is another.”

Vitoria disputed whether his side’s disallowed goal was truly offside, and revealed he had words with the referee after the final whistle, in a very calm and respectful manner.

“We have a final in five days and we will be back,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Al-Raed beat Abha Club 2-1, thanks to goals from Ahmed Zain and Mohammed Fouzair. Al-Ain won 2-0 away to Damac, with Faisel Al-Jamaan and Saphir Taider doing the damage either side of half time.

The other three matches of match day five ended in ties. Al-Qadisiyah and Al-Batin shared four goals, Al-Faisaly and Al-Ittihad drew 1-1, and Al-Shabab’s 2-2 draw at Al-Ahli kept them in second place in the league.