Ronald Koeman vs Quique Setién: Who would be the better Barcelona head coach?

AMSTERDAM, NETERLANDS - MARCH 24: head coach Ronald Koeman of Netherlands gestures during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Netherlands and Germany at Johan Cruijff ArenA on March 24, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETERLANDS - MARCH 24: head coach Ronald Koeman of Netherlands gestures during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Netherlands and Germany at Johan Cruijff ArenA on March 24, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

Barcelona are considering a lot of names as replacements for Ernesto Valverde

Ernesto Valverde’s future at Barcelona is looking very bleak, after the Basque coach’s failure to lead the club to the Champions League title for a second season in a row. He will almost certainly be dismissed at the end of the season, and the club needs to find a replacement.

A lot of names have come up as potential replacements for Valverde. Ex-captain Xavi and ‘Dream Team’ member Ronald Koeman are candidates, and so is former Barça defender Laurent Blanc and Real Betis head coach Quique Setién. Ajax manager Erik ten Hag is also being considered.

Xavi is expected to come in as assistant coach, while Ten Hag could be rejected for his inexperience despite the fact that he has done very well with a youthful Ajax side this season. Blanc is out of a job for a long time, and his coaching style doesn’t quite fit the Barça philosophy.

So, the only serious candidates are Koeman and Setién at this point. Of course, there are plenty of other managers could be available, including José Mourinho and Giovanni van Bronckhorst. But the favourites to get the job are the aforementioned duo.

Ronald Koeman was recently appointed the head coach of the Netherlands, after a failed spell with Everton. The Dutchman has enjoyed a good start to his international coaching career, with his young Netherlands side beating Germany, France and Portugal.

Koeman usually implements a 4-2-3-1 formation, and draws inspiration from his time playing under Johna Cruyff and assisting Louis van Gaal. His game is possession-based, but not overtly. Usually, Koeman’s teams tend to be very solid at the back.

He trains his players to reduce susceptibility to counter-attacks, and his Southampton usually played it long if under prolonged spells of pressure from the opposition. But usually, the goalkeeper sprayed it out to the defenders who built up the attack.

Koeman has the ability to develop youngsters, and many of his discoveries have found a lot of success. A high-profile example is Zlatan Ibrahimović, who flourished at Ajax under the ex-Barça defender and eventually went on to play for Juventus and Inter Milan among others.

Other players who broke out under Koeman include Rafael van der Vaart and Stefan de Vrij. The Cruyff protégé also has his mentor’s instinct in the transfer market, having made some inspired signings like that of Victor Wanyama at Southampton, and Maxwell at Ajax.

Overall, Koeman is a decent choice as manager. But he does not prefer Barça’s traditional 4-3-3 formation, making the team selection difficult with him in charge. Moreover, he has a 4-year contract at the Netherlands national team, extending till 2022.

That makes him an expensive hire as a manager, and Koeman could also be unwilling to leave a prestigious position he has only just entered. So, despite all his experience in Spain and across Europe, Ronald Koeman is unlikely to be appointed Barça head coach.

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Quique Setién has led a revolution at Real Betis. From a struggling club which switched managers every few months, Betis have become a powerhouse in Spanish football under Setién. This huge turnaround has been accentuated by some extremely attractive football.

In his first season in charge, Setién led Real Betis to a 6th place finish in the La Liga, which was a massive improvement from the 15th place finish the previous season. This season, Betis have failed to replicate the same performance in the league, but have done well in the cup competitions.

The Verdiblancos reached the Copa del Rey semi-final this season, and the round of 32 in the Europa League. This was Betis’ return to Europe after a drought of 5 years. But most importantly, Setién’s game is totally based on the Barça philosophy.

This season, Real Betis have had an average possession of 60%, which is a little less than that of Ernesto Valverde’s side. Setién has tried to emulate Johan Cruyff ever since he faced off against the ‘Dream Team’ as an Atlético player.

He is totally committed to his philosophy, and has been ridiculed for it. Sometimes, Real Betis have suffered because of his inflexibility. But the defensive loopholes could easily have been filled by quality defenders, and the 60-year old former Las Palmas manager cannot be totally blamed.

Betis have had general defensive issues over the years, and the likes of Marc Bartra and Aïssa Mandi have failed to solve that. But the Real Betis defence has also seen the emergence of Junior Firpo, who has become a La Liga sensation with his amazing attacking flair down the left flank.

Real Betis under Setién have become a midfield-based team. The attack and the defence have little role under the veteran, and some technically brilliant players down the middle control the game. The wings are occupied by marauding full-backs, mostly.

But the greatest success under Setién has been the 5-man midfield comprising holding midfielder William Carvalho, club captain Joaquín, on-loan Argentine playmaker Giovanni Lo Celso, former PSV Eindhoven midfielder Andrés Guardado and La Fábrica graduate Sergio Canales.

These 5 players have 22 goals and 15 assists between them. Their intelligence and trickery as string-pullers has not gone unnoticed, and Barça have registered interest in Lo Celso. They have also produced some magical moments through long shots and set-pieces.

Quique Setién’s lack of flexibility could hurt his chances of becoming Barça manager, but the board and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu should remember that Pep Guardiola was also inflexible and is the most successful manager in the club’s history.

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Between Koeman and Setién, the latter is clearly a better choice. Despite the fact that Koeman played under Cruyff himself, Setién’s coaching style is more influenced by the legendary Dutchman.