Barcelona Sack Ernesto Valverde, Appoint Quique Setien

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Barcelona have sacked coach Ernesto Valverde and named former Real Betis coach Quique Setien as his replacement, the club said in a statement on Monday.

The move came four days after the loss to Atlético Madrid in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup, a result that significantly increased pressure on Valverde.

Setien, 61, will take over a Barcelona side who sit top of La Liga and are safely through to the Champions League knockout rounds, where they face Italian side Napoli in the last 16.

Barcelona lead the standings on 40 points, ahead of second-placed Real Madrid on goal difference.

It is the first time since 2003 that Barcelona has made a change in the middle of the season. Louis van Gaal left the club that January, and since then six other coaches have begun their stints at the start of the season.

Al-Sadd boss Xavi, who left Barca for Qatar in 2015, had been the first choice to take over, but, following two days of talks with sporting director Eric Abidal and CEO Oscar Grau in Doha over the weekend, Xavi told them the timing wasn’t right. He remains open to returning in the future.

Setien will be presented on Tuesday, with his debut game at home against Granada on Sunday in La Liga.

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