Quique Setién: I am ‘a faithful believer in the academy’

Quique Setién with his assistant, Edu Sarabia // ALEX CAPARROS/GETTY IMAGES EUROPE

This article was written in collaboration with Aina Canales.

Quique Setién does not feel that he neglects the academy players, but wants to incorporate them gradually into the first team.

Barcelona’s manager, Quique Setién, has been interviewed by Onda Cero, on their talkshow El Transistor, as published Sunday night.

The Cantabrian manager voiced his opinion on his handling of the famed La Masia academy, his adaptation to Barcelona, and the team’s current situation. Setién also gave his take on the league’s suspension and what he thinks with regards to its resumption.

On his time in confinement

“The truth is that we are well, because we, fortunately, have not been affected like other people. In the end we are [in the comfort of our] home, with the family, and we always have something to do,” Setién told Onda Cero, adding that he is enjoying spending time with his wife and daughter.

On his adaptation to Catalonia
“Well yes, [I feel that I am adapting to Catalonia] normally I don’t have any problem, but it is true that during my two months here I have not been out much. But I don’t have any problem in adapting — and also, Barcelona is a city that I like a lot, having been here several times in the past.”

“That [learning Catalan] will me difficult for me, for sure, but the people I have met, and my colleagues, talk to me in Spanish.”

On the current political situation
“Before [this], I was not very interested in those topics, and I am not interested now either. It is complicated, each person has a way of thinking, and it is hard to see things from their perspectives.”

On how to treat the pandemic
“We have to look at some of the positive things, and the things we have to change as a society.”

On how the players are holding up
“I communicate with them, though not so much, because sometimes you don’t even know what to say other than sending some messages through WhatsApp or having a reunion all together [through a conference call].”

“I have spoken with the captains. They are in constant touch with the physical trainers so their workout plans are up to date, to know how they [both the players and the trainers] are doing, how they feel, and whether they are facing any problems.”

“[Lionel] Messi is training — he has a routine, a protocol and he is following them like all the other players are. Most of them have their own gyms in Barcelona at home, and the ones who don’t, have been provided [with equipment from the club] with the things they need to complete their training sessions.”

On returning to action

“Right now, I think is complicated [to return], until we see some light [with the situation getting better]. I prefer to stay home”

“I don’t expect us to need much time, but it will be difficult to get back to being in full force again. Every player is doing the work we are assigning to them, and we hope that when we are back together, training with the ball or physical work in larger spaces, [what they are doing] could work.”

“We have to do this [going back to the pitch] gradually, we have to be careful with injuries.”

“It would be important to perform stress tests on all the players to see how they are in every way, because there is also the emotional aspect of it. Also, [when we get back to training together again] there will be many things to take into account, and the protocols of the league [in terms of health care] will have to be followed.”

On how the team has been since his arrival

“You don’t know very well why things happen [about his dream move to Barcelona being followed by the current crisis]. After spending six months at home, relaxed, this opportunity arose. I have only been here for two months, but, well, right now you don’t win or lose, so I am sure that I will continue when the championship starts again and I will continue with the same enthusiasm, and the same dynamic that we have been in.”

“I am quite satisfied with the decisions we have made. It is true that some could have been corrected, but I am quite satisfied. It is true that we could have had a little more continuity in some concepts, but, well, we have not had too much time to work with either.”

On his assistant manager, Eder Sarabia
“He has a character, which possibly I had when I was his age, and I understand him. What happens is that you have to take care of the manners you use. Sometimes you overreact, but this has happened to all of us. We always try to correct ourselves. I’m calmer now [than I used to be], but you have to give Eder [Sarabia] a margin [regarding his temper].“

On his usage of youth players

“I don’t think I am a doubtful person when it comes to the academy and the youngsters. I have given them playtime when I considered that the youngsters could give me a better performance and I could win the games with them, better than with the professionals at my disposal could have.

“During my previous years and in Seville [with Real Betis], I showed it [my usage of youngsters in the first team]. In the two previous years in Las Palmas I showed it — and I come from the academy, so I am a faithful believer of the academy. I am watching the players, they are training with us, but none has convinced me to have more minutes to the point where I have to remove a player from the first team. It is true that these youngsters must be given minutes to become ‘real’ footballers, and in a club like Barça you have to measure these integrations very well.”

On finishing the season

“We all want to finish the competition [LaLiga], even if it is behind closed doors, and [we want] everything to go back to normal, to how it used to be, but I would like to be guaranteed that there would be no problem. If we have to end it right now, I think it is fair to keep the classification [of the league standings] as it is right now.”

On Messi’s future lying with Barcelona
“I am absolutely sure that Messi will continue [with Barcelona]. Barcelona plans projects aiming to win as much as possible”

On Philippe Coutinho
“Coutinho has been an extraordinary footballer. We saw him as a player in midfield, the interior zone of the field, and he is good in small spaces.”

On Barcelona’s potential signings
“We have [within Barça] been talking about Lautaro [Martínez], but the current situation is going to complicate many things in the future — many of clubs will have problems. These footballers are very expensive economically.

“We can speculate on this topic, but we will have to wait for what really happens. I am not pessimistic or optimistic with Lautaro; I like him the same way I like great footballers, but I have no dreams [so to speak] of having any of them [in my team],” he said, adding that Neymar’s arrival is complicated due to the financial situation, too.

On whether being at Barça changes Setién, the person
“I’m the same person I have always been. At times, the circumstances of such a big club surpass you, but no, that is not the case.”

On the relationship with the players
“I think I have convinced them, and the proof lies in that many of the things we have talked about are things we are seeing on the pitch. It is true that we have lacked continuity, but you get better as you work [on these things].”

On a return of Xavi
“Before I came there were some speculations talking about me coming to Barça, so I always thought of calling Xavi to join us and come here together, is always good to have someone who know the club so well. When he comes back we open the door and let him in. I will try to be here as long as possible.”

Quique Setién’s appointment was announced as Barcelona’s new manager on January 13, 2020, shortly after the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde, which was based on a mutual agreement.