Quique Setien and Barcelona look set for major change after another humiliating defeat in the Champions League.
It’s the third season in a row that the Catalan giants have been embarrassed in Europe’s top competition, but Friday’s 8-2 hammering by Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals is likely to bring about plenty of change.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed as much after the match. The club chief apologized to supporters for the painful defeat and said decisions would be made in the coming days.
“There are some decisions that we had already made, and others that we will make over the next few days. Announcements will be made from next week, we need to make decisions after things have calmed down. Today is a day for reflection. Tomorrow we will try to raise our fans’ spirits following such a heavy defeat.
“It was a devastating result. I congratulate Bayern, they played a great game and deserved to go to the semi-finals. We were not up to the occasion, and we can only apologize to the members and fans.”
The first change likely to be made is the departure of Setien. The 61-year-old only took charge in January but is set to be sacked and will not be in charge of the club next season, according to transfer expert Fabrizio Romano.
Defender Gerard Pique has also called on the club to make changes and said he would be willing to leave if necessary. He said after the match: “If I have to go in order to change things I’ll be the first to accept that.”
Pique was one of six Barcelona players over the age of 30 to start the match against Bayern. According to Opta, it was the oldest Barcelona line-up ever to take to the pitch in the Champions League and means a summer shake-up could be on the cards.
Captain Lionel Messi’s future is also under scrutiny. According to Juanma Castaño at Cope, the Argentine could decide to leave when his contract expires at the end of next season unless there is major restructuring at the club.
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Pochettino Favorite to Replace Setien
The early favorite to replace Setien in the Camp Nou hotseat is former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, according to RAC1. The 48-year-old has a fine reputation for his work at Tottenham but might not be wholly popular with Barca fans.
Pochettino played and managed Barca’s local rivals Espanyol and had appeared to rule out ever managing Barcelona previously due to his relationship with Los Periquitos, describing such a move as “impossible.”
Yet Pochettino seemed to backtrack on those comments in a recent interview with El Pais, where he offered a more detailed explanation of his thoughts about the Catalan giants.
“I was in Barcelona that year and I met [Barcelona president] Bartomeu in a bar. We greeted each other because we were taking the children to the same school and we were talking for five minutes. That generated a rumor that set off alarms because there were more teams that wanted us, and when they asked me I wanted to settle it drastically.
“I did not want to disrespect Barcelona. I could have said things differently. Espanyol has made a name for me. But I’m not arrogant and I didn’t like making a statement like that. Maybe now I wouldn’t because in life you never know what will happen.”
Pochettino was sacked by Spurs in November after five years in north London and is currently out of work and available if Barca were to come calling.
Koeman and Xavi Also Under Consideration
Yet the Argentine is not the only contender for the job. According to Samuel Marsden and Moises Llorens at ESPN, former Barcelona players Ronald Koeman and Xavi are also in the frame.
Koeman is well-liked at Barcelona but is currently manager of the Netherlands national team and has said previously he is not interested in leaving his job until after the next European Championship in 2021.
Barcelona are also said to have doubts about Koeman’s defensive thinking and are aware the 57-year-old underwent a heart procedure in May.
And then there’s Xavi. The former midfielder would be a popular choice among supporters if he were to return and has said on several occasions it’s his “dream” to come back to the Camp Nou as manager.
Xavi is currently in charge of Qatari side Al-Sadd and signed a new one-year contract with the club in July. The 40-year-old has also said in an interview this week that he does not think now is the right time to return to Barca.
“There’s a lot of external noise around the club, a lot of issues off the pitch and I don’t think now is the right time. In January I told them it wasn’t the right time and they haven’t contacted me since.”
Barcelona were in touch with Xavi in January before hiring Setien but were turned down by the club legend. It’s possible they could be in touch again as they seek a new coach and a fresh start in time for the 2020-21 campaign.