Jan. 14 (UPI) — Quique Setien is Barcelona’s new manager, after the La Liga power decided to fire Ernesto Valverde.
Barcelona announced the moves Monday. Valverde, 55, joined Barcelona in 2017. Setien’s contract with the club runs through 2022.
Setien joined Barcelona in training Monday. He will coach the club in a La Liga match against Granada Sunday in Barcelona. Barcelona sits in first place in La Liga, with one more win than rival Real Madrid.
Setien, 61, announced he was leaving as manager of Real Betis in May. He joined Real Betis in 2017. He also coached at Las Palmas, Lugo, Racing Santander, Poli Ejido and Logrones. He enjoyed a long playing career for Racing Santander, Atletico, Logrones and Levante.
Valverde won La Liga and the Spanish Super Cup in his first season, before being knocked out of the Champions League. He led Barcelona to another La Liga title in his second season, before another early exit from the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid knocked Barcelona out of the Spanish Super Cup Thursday in Saudi Arabia, sparking more rumors of Valverde’s dismissal and replacement.
“It has been an intense two and a half years right from the start,” Valverde said in a letter to Barcelona fans. “In that time I have enjoyed some joyful moments celebrating victories and trophies but also others that have been tough and difficult. However, above all I would like to highlight my experience with the fans and the affection showed towards me during my time as coach.”
Barcelona was also linked to former player Xavi Hernandez, but he opted to retain his manager role at Al-Sadd. The La Liga leaders return to Champions League play with a round of 16 matchup against Napoli Feb. 25 in Naples, Italy.