Barcelona are contemplating sacking manager Quique Setién if the club fall further behind in the La Liga title race this week. La Blaugrana were leading La Liga before football was suspended, but recent draws against Sevilla and strugglers Celta Vigo have seen the team fall two points behind Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid with six games remaining, prompting plenty of reports that Setién’s time at Camp Nou could come to an end this summer. Barcelona drew 2-2 with Celta Vigo However, Catalunya…
Only winning La Liga or the Champions League will save Quique Setien’s job at Barcelona, amid reports of a growing rift between the players and coaching staff at Camp Nou.
61-year-old head coach Setien signed on as head coach in January, following Ernesto Valverde’s dismissal. While Valverde’s was an equally divisive figure at Barcelona, he did leave with the club top of the table, having delivered consecutive league titles. Setien’s Barça are now two points behind Real Madrid in the title race, have drawn two of their last three, as well as losing the Clasico shortly before the hiatus.
Marca reports that following the most recent slip-up – the 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo at Balaidos on Saturday – there was a ‘tense discussion’ between the players and coach in the away dressing room.
It is said that some players ‘reproached’ Setien for his tactical decisions, while there is a supposed lack of faith in the manager’s ability to deliver trophies.
Goal, meanwhile, report that Setien – who was handed a two-and-a-half-year contract in January – will inevitably lose his job this summer, unless there is a ‘significant upswing’ in results, with catching Real Madrid or lifting the Champions League the only real routes to earning a stay of the execution.
The worry is that, with performances mixed, this could be the first trophy-less season for Barcelona since 2007/08.
Goal’s report specifically notes the rampant player power at Barcelona, with key stars turning the dressing room against the coach’s methods, while assistant manager Eder Sarabia remains a ‘very a unpopular figure’. Viral footage even appeared to show Lionel Messi walking away from a group huddle as Sarabia approaches to give instructions during a water break.
Setien was quick to play down the caught-on-camera incident after the game, however.
“In reality, it is true that there are always controversies, as in life, and it is normal that there are differences,” the Barça coach said, via AS.
“But this has always happened. I was not an easy player either. What we have to try to do is to convince everyone of the common idea.
“I understand it as something natural. There is good communication. I don’t give it any importance.”
Setien was, famously, not Barcelona’s first choice in January, with club legends Ronald Koeman and Xavi Hernandez both approached before the ex-Real Betis manager.
To add more pressure onto Setien, Xavi has confirmed to the press that he is already ‘preparing’ to return to Camp Nou in the near future.
Watch out Phil Foden, there’s a new wonderkid on the block.
The Citizens have been doing some work behind the scenes during a crazy period for football, and it looks as if they’re close to snaring one of Spanish football’s most exciting youth stars of recent years.
18-year-old Pablo Moreno, a product of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy who currently plays his football at Juventus, is reportedly set to swap Turin for sunny Manchester to join Pep Guardiola, with City’s Felix Correia moving in the opposite direction.
Excited but a little bit confused? We’ve got you covered with all there is to know about the Spanish prodigy.
Moreno doesn’t come from Barcelona’s typical youth catchment area, hailing from Granada in southern Spain, 850km removed from Catalonia.
He started to gain recognition with his scintillating form in the Campeonato de Andalucía, leading Ciudad de Granada’s Under-10 team to the trophy and conquering the mighty Real Betis in the final.
He has remained the talk of Granada long since leaving for Barcelona, and as his former manager Javier Mahia recalls: “In Granada you can see a lot more Juve shirts, but not because of Cristiano Ronaldo, because of Pablo Moreno!”
The Spanish striker can play across the forward line, but primarily played on the left or as a centre-forward for Juventus’ youth teams.
One of the things that will terrify his potential Premier League opponents the most is his directness – while he is an undoubted goal threat, he likes to drop deep and dribble at defenders, using his acceleration and excellent natural close control to open up defences and create space for his team.
Defenders will have to stay focussed against Moreno – his pace and awareness means that he can take advantage of any lax offside trap.
One of the most noticeable things about Pablo Moreno is his determination to get to the very top level.
The striker, though only 18, has spoken of his determination to win the Ballon d’Or, and the fact that he relocated to a different country at the age of 16 having grown frustrated with the lack of opportunity at his boyhood club Barcelona speaks volumes about how serious he is.
And if that doesn’t convince you, Moreno was making sacrifices at an age where most kids have more time for maxing out their mum’s credit card on Fortnite skins – what other 10-year old in human history has voluntarily given up fizzy drinks?!
City fans frantically searching for ‘Pablo Moreno | Goals and Skills | HD | Next Shaun Goater?’ compilations on YouTube right now might be disappointed to see that there isn’t much footage of him playing in professional matches (in fact, there is none at all).
However, some awfully good players have come through the UEFA Youth League in recent years, and Moreno is one of many players to have cut his teeth in this innovative competition.
He has four goals in this year’s (obviously postponed) competition, joining a certain Gio Reyna and a certain Joshua Zirkzee on the same tally.
Barça fans will be pleased to see that he showed no mercy to their old foes Atletico Madrid, scoring two in six minutes against them in a second-half salvo.
I think we can all agree that you generally have to be pretty good at football to be a record-holder at Barcelona’s legendary La Masia academy.
The extraordinary came naturally to Moreno, however, who has turned Bojan Krkic’s achievements at the youth training complex to rubble, scoring an unbelievable 72 goals in 27 Under-13 games in his first season at the club.
Having stacked up over 200 goals in total for Barcelona, it’s not a surprise that they came crawling back to sign him this summer, according to Marca‘s report – but he only had eyes for Man City.
A player as confident and resolute as Moreno is unsurprisingly always looking to see what he can learn from some of the greats of the game, and two of the very best in the world at the moment were more than happy to lend a helping hand at Juventus.
‘[Paolo] Dybala and Cristiano [Ronaldo], they helped me the most,’ Moreno says of when he was asked to train with Juventus’ first team.
‘Mostly with things I didn’t understand, like preventing injuries. They explained things to me and told me what to do.’
How many other players have got to study under both Ronaldo and Messi?
Never mind Ronaldo and Dybala – Max Allegri is a pretty good judge of players, and Moreno almost got his first start under the six-time Serie A winner.
Moreno was an unused substitute in Juve’s game against Genoa last season, and he might have wondered what could have been – La Vecchia Signora made hard work of the fixture and ended up losing 2-0, and unsurprisingly Allegri opted against calling upon the rookie to remedy the situation.
With Barcelona on the verge of disintegration both on and off the field, there perhaps couldn’t be a worse time to take on a rejuvenated Atlético Madrid in La Liga.
In Catalonia, things have not been ideal since the restart. The most recent setback? An 88th minute equaliser from Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas, which left Quique Setien’s men two points adrift Real Madrid, after they narrowly overcame Espanyol.
Meanwhile, a formerly stuttering Atlético side are back to their stodgy and stoic selves, and will go into a usually hard-fought contest knowing that a win would constitute an enormous stride towards another year of Champions League football (and a collective sigh of relief among their fans).
Can Atlético put a huge dent in Barca’s title hopes here? Will Gerard Piqué tweet another cryptic MGMT quote after this one? Let’s look ahead to a much-anticipated clash between two heavyweights of Spanish football…
When is Kick Off? Tuesday 30 June What Time is Kick Off? 21:00 (BST) Where is it Played? Camp Nou TV Channel/Live Stream? LaLigaTV Referee? Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
Sergio Busquets will return from a one-match suspension for Barcelona, but they have a number of injuries to contend with.
Ousmane Dembélé will of course be absent with the hamstring injury which he picked up in February, while Frenkie de Jong misses out with a calf problem. Sergi Roberto has, in a boost for Setien, returned to training after injuring his rib.
Arthur Melo may well have completed a transfer to Juventus by Tuesday, with a deal needing to be completed by 30 June for financial reasons.
Atlético are a little more fortunate in the injuries department. Mario Hermoso’s muscle injury will keep him out of the squad and Šime Vrsaljko is still recovering from keyhole surgery undertaken in May, but otherwise it’s a clean bill of health.
However, in terms of suspensions they will be missing both Koke and Stefan Savic.
With three wins and two draws, most team’s wouldn’t complain at Barcelona’s form after several months of ‘holiday’, but in one of La Liga’s tighter title races, it just won’t do.
Barcelona just can’t convert draws into wins away from home, and Sevilla were unlucky not to find a winner at the end of the 0-0 draw between the two teams on the 19 June. With the football far from emphatic, Setien is coming under increased pressure to find a solution.
After a lacklustre draw against Athletic Club in their first game back, it looked like a worrying season was going to get even worse for Simeone and Atlético. But since that wobble, they’ve been one of the best post-quarantine teams in Europe.
Not only have they won their last four, conceding only one goal in the process, but they actually scored five goals in one game against Osasuna! For the first time in over two years!
Celta Vigo 2-2 Barcelona (27/6) Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Bilbao (23/6) Sevilla 0-0 Barcelona (19/6) Barcelona 2-0 Leganes (16/6) Mallorca 0-4 Barcelona (13/06)
Atlético Madrid 2-1 Alaves (27/6) Levante 0-1 Atlético Madrid (23/6) Atlético Madrid 1-0 Real Valladolid (20/6) Osasuna 0-5 Atlético Madrid (17/6) Atlético Madrid 1-1 Athletic Bilbao (14/6)
Regardless of how turbulent things get, Barcelona are Barcelona – they are a) pretty impregnable at home (failing to win just once at the Camp Nou all season), and b) pretty great against Diego Simeone. We can more or less rule out a loss, at least.
But a defensively dodgy Barcelona side will struggle to stamp their authority on this match, not least because Atlético are now relatively sure of Champions League football, and can play in this high-stakes game under less pressure than the La Liga contenders.
Expect a stalemate here, and the noise surrounding Quique Setien’s future to intensify.
La Masia is not what it used to be, that much we already know.
The 2010 era at Barcelona, where the club had – according to Ballon d’Or voting – the world’s top three footballers in Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, was always going to be tricky to replicate.
Yet nobody expected it to be as bad as it has been for the Catalan giants. With such a strong philosophy rooted in the development of youth prospects, nurturing them from a tender age to one day appear for the first team, the results have been poor in recent years.
Former manager Louis van Gaal once dreamed of winning the Champions League at Barça with 11 homegrown players, and the media made a mockery of him. Yet in 2009, La Blaugrana lifted the trophy with eight of them.
In 2012, Barca travelled to Valencia to take on Levante in a La Liga clash. Originally starting the match with Dani Alves at right back, the Brazilian was forced off with an injury just 15 minutes in, and made way for Martin Montoya. As the current Brighton defender entered the frame, for the first time in their 120-year existence, Barça had fielded a full XI of La Masia graduates.
And what a team it was. Then manager Tito Vilanova steered the club through one of the proudest moments in its long, illustrious history, as La Blaugrana won the match 4-0.
Despite fielding a full squad of academy players, Vilanova handed just one debut to a Masia graduate during his tenure. Carles Planas was the only player to appear for the first team, and the left back now plays his football in Cyprus with AEK Larnaca.
Since La Masia’s heyday in 2012, it has become increasingly difficult for academy players to get consistent opportunities in the starting lineup. As Barça grew in stature, the club transitioned into a results based phase, moving away from Johan Cruyff’s performance based theory.
Players would get opportunities based on their ability rather than the scoreline. As results dipped for the B team and mass changes in personnel were made, young prospects began to opt for moves away. Promising players like Alex Grimaldo, Sergi Gomez, Eric Garcia and Dani Olmo all left the club in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
Barça entered a new period of shoddy recruitment in an attempt to clutch onto their mammoth status. In hindsight, it was a weak decision to let the now coveted Grimaldo slip away, opting for a largely unsuccessful Lucas Digne.
Similarly, Sergi Roberto, now a regular performer in the first team, was made to wait patiently for his opportunity due to the signings of Andre Gomes and Paulinho, both of whom have left the club in recent years. And even now, he has to play at right back instead of central midfield.
In April 2018, under the now departed Ernesto Valverde, Barça lined up without any La Masia graduates for the first time in 16 years. With the club publicly unwilling to pay agent demands for the contract renewals of youth players, young stars are seeking more prosperous deals elsewhere, such is the nature of the modern game.
Infamous super-agent Mino Raiola is responsible for the latest high profile youth departure – Xavi Simons. Deemed one of the most exciting players in La Masia’s recent history, the Dutch youth international was lured away with a big-money move to PSG.
With Barcelona now making moves in the transfer market, swapping Arthur for Juventus’ Miralem Pjanic, it may be in the best interests of the club to re-adopt the philosophy that once served them so well.
The introduction of Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati has been an encouraging step in the right direction, with both proving they can cope with high level demands. It remains to be seen what opportunities will be handed to the likes of Carles Alena, Juan Miranda and Oriol Busquets, each of whom have been tipped for success, yet shipped out on loan.
Pjanic undoubtedly adds quality in midfield, though the club’s thinking seems muddled, what with Alena and Puig waiting in the wings.
The class of 2012 proved to be extremely successful for Barcelona. La Liga titles were never far away, even if Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid stole the odd one here and there, and it’s frightening to see how La Masia has been disregarded in favour of frantic and confused incomings in recent years.
Barça need to be handing more youth players the opportunity to develop at the highest level. The cultured Pjanic may be able to make a more instant impact, but if Quique Setien wants to steer the club into a new era of long-lasting dominance, they have to start to trust in their youth again.