Former Barcelona boss Quique Setien has said that captain Lionel Messi is “difficult to manage” and has explained why he found it tough to coach the Argentina international during his time at the Camp Nou.
Setien was fired from his job as Barcelona manager three days after the club’s humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League in August. The Cantabrian only managed seven months in the job and finished the season empty-handed despite taking over when Barca was top of the league table.
The 62-year-old spoke to former Spain boss Vicente del Bosque for El Pais about his time with Barcelona and his experience of working with Messi.
I think Messi is the best of all time. There have been other great players who have been great, but the continuity that this boy has had throughout the years has not been had by anyone.
Leo is difficult to manage. Who am I to change him? If they have accepted him as he is for years and have not changed him. There’s another facet beyond just the player and it’s more difficult to manage. Much more difficult. It’s something inherent in many athletes that can be seen in the Michael Jordan documentary. You see things you don’t expect. He’s very reserved but he makes you see the things that he wants. He doesn’t talk much.
Messi finished the season top of the charts for goals and assists in La Liga 2020-21, but Barca still ended up five points behind Real Madrid in second place.
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Messi’s Barcelona Frustrations
Messi made his frustrations at Barcelona evident last season during a chaotic campaign on and off the pitch. The captain spoke out against sporting director Eric Abidal after the Frenchman blamed the players for Ernesto Valverde’s sacking, as reported by The Guardian.
The Argentine was also critical of Barca’s performances under Setien. He was left frustrated at the end of the season after seeing his team relinquish their title to Real Madrid, as reported by AS.
We didn’t want to finish the league season in this manner, but this game sums up how the whole year has been. We’ve been inconsistent and not tough enough, we haven’t shown the right intensity and have conceded too easily. We dropped a lot of points when we shouldn’t have.
Messi also warned his team “won’t have enough to win the Champions League if we carry on playing as we have” and was proved correct as they were thrashed by Bayern in what proved to be Setien’s final game in charge.
Setien Discusses Barcelona Sacking
Setien also spoke about the defeat to Bayern and claimed the decision to remove him from his position had been taken even before his team’s humiliation at the hands of the Bundesliga champions.
You end up tremendously damaged, you go into Barcelona history with that defeat. I take my share of the blame. All the same, one day I will write about it. After my sacking I found out that the decision had been made since before the 8-2. I heard about everything.
The truth is that I couldn’t be myself, nor did I do what I should have. It is true that I could have taken drastic steps, but that would not have helped either in as short a time as I was there and in which everything was condensed after lockdown.
Setien was replaced by Ronald Koeman in August, who has had an eventful start to his Barcelona career. The Dutchman has had to cope with Messi trying to leave before the start of the season, while his team has made a disappointing start to the season and is 12th after their first six games.
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