Tuesday's soccer news starts with what is now a familiar story. An elite European club is only tied on points at the top of the table and failed to win a tournament played in Saudi Arabia. That lack of quick results means FC Barcelona is under new management. Ernesto Valverde is out as coach and Quique Setien with a short runway before Barcelona plays Napoli next month in the Champions League round of 16.
Barcelona hasn't lost in La Liga since November 2, but they also haven't won three out of their last four games. That slide by elite club standards allowed Real Madrid to close in the title race. The two played out a scoreless clasico on December 18. Compounding Barcelona's issues, at least in the eyes of the people making the decisions at the more than a club, was the Supercopa de Espana. Played as a four-team tournament in Saudi Arabia last week, Barcelona lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid in the semifinals. Atletico lost the final to Real Madrid on penalties.
Whether or not the results were enough to justify a coaching change, Barcelona moves on. Quique Setien takes over after half a season out of the game. He last coached at Real Betis, leaving the job at the end of the 2018-19 season. What Setien did at Betis was turn them from a 15th-place club in his first season to 6th-place in his final season. That move up the table impressed Barcelona enough that they reportedly considered him for the job last January. This January, he got it.
Exactly what Setien steps into shouldn't be a surprise. It's win every game or face the same kind of criticism that has hampered other coaches taking the job. Barcelona's sole purpose is winning across their schedule. That may sound like a throwaway statement easily applied to any of the super clubs, but some of them act faster than others. Manchester City isn't looking for a new manager with little chance of catching Liverpool. Manchester United isn't responding to criticism by dropping their manager either.
"Victory comes by playing well," Setien said. "The best way to win is to play good football and I want to maintain that for a long time. I have enjoyed Barca from the ouitside, on television. I have analysed Barca's style. I will add my touches and details. I love the Barca DNA."
No doubt since it includes one of the two choices for best player in the world. Messi in the squad doesn't need lengthy discussion, but it does carry with it more of those expectations that need meeting. Not winning everything with an elite squad is one thing. Not doing it with a 32-year-old icon that is still on his game seems like a wasted opportunity. If Barcelona isn't winning with Messi and the rest of their cohort of superstars, there's simply no excuse. Now, it's Setien's turn to deal with that.
SI.com's Jonathan Wilson with his take on Barcelona's coaching change. Marca's Jaime Rincon on Valverde's position following last season's Champions League loss to Arsenal. iNews' Evan Bartlett looks at the list of the world's richest soccer clubs with Barca top of that table.
The Daily Mail's Martin Samuel asks about the overuse of instant replay in the Premier League. ESPN's Brice Schoenfeld profiles RB Leipzig and the response from the rest of the Bundesliga. Inside World Football's Samindra Kunti on Club Brugge's stadium plan.
Also in the soccer news, Former Costa Rica National Team player Gonzalo Segares is the new coach of the USMNT U-15s. He previously coached for Chicago youth club FC United after retiring from the Chicago Fire. "It's a privilege to work with U.S. Soccer," Segares said in a press statement. "It's a challenge for me, but it's a great step for my career. I get to work with the best players in the United States at this age group. The opportunity to work with guys like Earnie and Gregg Berhalter, guys that have a great professional vision and that have been in the game for many years, being in the same place and seeing how they work will let me learn a lot and help me keep developing as a coach."
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