​Ernesto Valverde was the first man to be sacked as Barcelona manager since Louis van Gaal in 2003, despite sitting top of La Liga.

Valverde was dismissed late on Monday evening and replaced with former Real Betis boss Quique Setién, who has penned a two-and-a-half year deal at Camp Nou.

The move has certainly divided opinion. Valverde's side were top of La Liga and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, yet he has become the first manager to be relieved of his duties since 2003.

Back then, it was Van Gaal who was sacked, but his side were 20 points away from the top of the table and just three points above the relegation zone, while they had also been embarrassingly eliminated from the Copa del Rey at the hands of Novelda.

Since Van Gaal, every ​Barcelona coach has left when their contract expired, and the same was expected of Valverde, whose deal ran until the summer, but Barcelona clearly felt it was necessary to move on from him as soon as possible.

His final game in charge was Thursday's Super Cup defeat to ​Atlético Madrid, which was the fourth time in the last five games that Barcelona had failed to win.


That was a worrying trend which had crept into Valverde's side ever since their humiliating 4-0 loss to ​Liverpool in the ​Champions League semi-final last season.

​La Liga Expert note that, before that game, Barcelona had won 70% of their matches under Valverde, losing just 10% of their matches, but that success rate plummeted down to just 57% after the loss at Anfield.

La Blaugrana also lost 20% of their matches after that game, with Valverde seemingly struggling to win over his players after the second infamous capitulation in as many seasons, with many still frustrated from the 3-0 loss to Roma in 2018.

Ernesto Valverde

In recent weeks, links to numerous managers had emerged, with the likes of Xavi, Ronald Koeman and even Mauricio Pochettino linked with a move to Camp Nou.

As noted by ​Cadena SER, Valverde had a meeting with Barcelona officials to discuss the speculation, and they insisted that contact with Xavi was just a rumour, but he was not convinced and questioned why he had been treated so poorly.

Xavier Hernandez

Valverde is even said to have left the meeting feeling as though Barcelona were trying to push him into resigning, potentially in the hope of saving them having to pay a compensation fee to the manager.

Now, it will be up to Setién to turn things around, and his first chance to do so will come against Granada on Sunday 19 January.

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