BARCELONA – FC Barcelona announced on Monday that they have reached an agreement with Ernesto Valverde on the termination of his contract and that Quique Setien will replace him as head coach.
It marks the first time a manager of the Catalans has been fired mid-season since January 2003, when Louis van Gaal was replaced by Radomir Antic.
Valverde was sacked even though Barça is currently in first place in La Liga and finished first in their group in the round-robin phase of this season’s Champions League.
The decision was apparently triggered by Barcelona’s 3-2 loss Thursday to Atletico Madrid in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup. Valverde may have started to lose favor with management last season when the club lost 4-3 on aggregate to eventual champion Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals despite winning the first leg 3-0.
Valverde’s contract was not due to expire until the end of the current season and included a clause that could have kept him with the club until June 2021.
Quique Setien, who coached Spanish-league club Real Betis until last year, will now lead Lionel Messi and company and be presented to the media on Tuesday afternoon.
Valverde was informed of the decision by the team’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, after one final practice late Monday morning.
On the club’s website, Barcelona thanked the Spanish head coach for his efforts and noted that he had led the club to four trophies over two and a half seasons: two La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey and a Spanish Super Cup.
“The club publicly expresses its gratitude to Ernesto Valverde for his professionalism, his commitment, his dedication and his always positive treatment towards all that make up the Barca family. We wish him luck and success in the future,” the team said.
In a separate article, Barcelona hailed the 61-year-old Setien as one of the most experienced coaches in Spanish soccer.
The Spanish former coach of first-division sides Real Betis and Las Palmas, among other teams, “has been a proponent of possession-based, attacking football that has been attractive to the fans,” Barcelona said, referring to the traits that have been the club’s hallmark since the days of Johan Cruyff.
Setien’s first match as Barcelona’s head coach will be a Sunday La Liga contest at home against Granada, who stunned the Catalans 2-0 in September at Los Carmenes Stadium.