Barcelona axes manager Valverde in midseason with Liga leadBarcelona's head coach Ernesto Valverde reacts during the Spanish Super Cup semifinal soccer match between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at King Abdullah stadium in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
MADRID (AP) -- Barcelona has made a rare coaching change midway through the season, replacing Ernesto Valverde with former Real Betis manager Quique Setien.
Monday's move came four days after the loss to Atletico Madrid in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup, a result that significantly increased pressure on Valverde.
Setien, a 61-year-old Spaniard who used to play as a midfielder for Atletico Madrid, is known for setting up teams that often mimicked Barcelona's attacking-minded style.
It is the first time since 2003 that Barcelona is making 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.
Valverde was in charge of the team's practice on Monday, which happened before the club's board of directors met to seal his fate. Valverde met with club president Josep Bartomeu for about an hour before leaving the team's training center.
His departure came with Barcelona leading the Spanish league, and a few weeks from facing Napoli in the round of 16 of the Champions League. Barcelona drew three of its last four Liga games, though, and pressure on Valverde increased after the team conceded two late goals in a 3-2 loss to Atletico in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.
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