Quique Setién on the sideline as the players stop for a water break.
Quique Setién on the sideline as the players stop for a water break. / Reuters


The supply teacher

  • Quique Setién's arrival was welcomed at first, but now the lack of discipline is starting to turn into a problem for FC Barcelona... at the worst possible time

Cast your minds back to the time when a supply teacher took over the classroom from the regular tutor. At first, he's welcomed for his laissez faire attitude which gives the kids freedom to express themselves but after a few weeks, and, especially at the end of term, they start to take liberties and discipline goes out of the window.

This is what's happening at FC Barcelona. Quique Setién was the likeable replacement for the strict Ernesto Valverde. Rules were relaxed as the new manager took over from the keen disciplinarian. Initially, all was fun but eventually he will be judged on the end-of-term report and final results. The big boys in the classroom are getting restless; there is an air of disobedience.

After Barcelona drew at struggling Celta Vigo, a sulky Luis Suárez gave a cryptic quote: "Away from home, we're dropping important points that we didn't usually drop in other seasons. I think that's why coaches are there, to analyse those situations." It was classic buck-passing.

The situation wasn't helped by images of Setién's assistant being ignored by prominent players as he tried to deliver a pep talk. Eder Sarabia was blatantly ignored by several of the team as he tried to lift a flat performance.

Whether he's allowed to honour a two-year contract appears to be out of his control in more ways than one. Results are the major factor and club legend Xavi Hernández is waiting in the wings for the political situation to be settled. His message from Qatar was short but pointed this week: "The biggest dream I have is to be Barcelona coach, to return to Barça and triumph."

The club has lost direction. Take the bizarre deal which sees Arthur Melo go to Juventus for 72 million euros and Miralem Pjanić head to Barca for 60 million. To most of us it's a 10-million swap deal between a 23-year-old and a player seven years his senior.

This is a transfer that has been devised by the bean-counters rather than football people.

You couldn't imagine a top-level manager allowing the accountants to devise a transfer policy based on a profit and loss sheet.

Clearly neither player has a current transfer value close to those figures but then again this is a club that paid 120 million euros for Antoine Griezmann in the summer who now can't find a place in the starting team.

It's a statement from the coach to drop the expensive summer signing and only introduce him for the final couple of minutes against Atlético. Setién is having to offer tough love to the class of 2020.

It's quite a contrast to a cool January day when he heard about Barcelona's interest as he walked through a serene field in the company of cows. Now he's running with a bunch of angry bulls in the intense heat of July.