The managerial situation of FC Barcelona 2017-2020

Gahier Perez

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This article explains the situation of FC Barcelona during 2017 to 2020 and illustrates how bad management can lead to many issues in different aspects of a team.

A fresh start

After 3 seasons of ups and downs Luis Enrique, the current manager of Barcelona by that time announced at the end of the season that he was stepping away from the job. 

It was known that some players weren’t pleased with the way of coach of Luis Enrique and it was rumored that some players found him to bee “too strict”

After he made his decision public, the club started to explore the options to hire as his replacement. After internal talks between the staff of the club, Ernesto Valverde was hired as the new head coach of the club on 29 May 2019. That was clearly going to be his biggest managerial job and a big challenge as well taking into account the club that he was going to manage and the dressing room of so many big players that were at the club at that moment.

Just 2 months after taking the job, the club lost one of its biggest players in Neymar Jr on 4 August 2017. This had as consequence that the coach needed to re-adjust his season plannings and the club needed to look into the market for a replacement within a short time, taking into account that the transfer market was nearly closing.

The team started the season on a good track,  even though they weren’t training as hard as before, they were winning the most matches just by individual talent of the star players that they had.

The start of the debacle

By mid-season, fans started to notice a huge decliving on the intensity of the team. The team was still winning most of the game, but it was clearly noticeable that something was going on. Valverde wasn’t known for having a big character. It was rumored that he was a player’s pleaser and that he often satisfied the player’s whims. Valverde lowered the intensity of training and made them last less time, this was the reason behind the team’s poor performances. By the end of the season, when things mattered the most, the team was in very poor form. Even though they were still getting positive results. Nevertheless, the worst was yet to come. On April 8 2018, Fc Barcelona faced Roma in the quarter finals of the champions league. They went to win 4-1 and everything looked like they were heading to the next round of the competition with quite ease. On 10 April 2018, the second leg against Roma was played. All fans and sport analysts were assuming that Barcelona was easily winning that match and advancing to the next round. 

Surprisingly, Roma went on to win 3-0 and eliminated Fc Barcelona. That night was labeled as one of the worst performances of Barcelona in recent years. Despite the fact that Barcelona was comfortably in first place of their local competition, fans were very pissed off by this result and with the way it happened. This caused many incongos in the club and the majority of the fan base and shareholders of the club were claiming that Valverde needed to be sacked.

Players had too much voice

The end of the season arrived and all the talks in the club and the media were related to if Valverde needed to be sacked or not. Despite the majority of shareholders of the club demanding the sacking, Valverde managed to keep his job for the fact that he was highly backed and supported by the players. Despite the fact that things weren’t going how they were supposed to be, the players were all the way in with Valverde. This was for the fact that he was giving them all that they wanted and wasn’t demanding too much effort in training and on the field as long as results accompany. “We are here to win.’ These were the words of Valverde in a press conference when he was asked about the team's poor performances and lack of identity during the last season.

New season, time for change?

The new season 2018-2019 was a new opportunity for the club and surely Valverde had big pressure on his shoulders. Fans were looking forward to seeing a much more competitive team with way more spirit than last season. Nonetheless, the new season was a mirror of the last one. Results were still positive but when the time of truth came, it ended in disappointment.  This time, Barcelona went to win 3-0 at home vs Liverpool and everyone was thinking “What happened last year against Liverpool can’t happen again. Yet, it happened once again.Barcelona went to lose 4-0 against Liverpool in the second round with a disastrous performance. 

Surely this time?

After that humiliating result, shareholders and fans were more furious than ever. They were demanding the manager to get sacked right away but no moves were made in the offices of the club. Despite not being successful recently, the players were in a comfortable zone. That dressing room was filled with players who had won it all and that looked like they had nothing more to motivate them or to compete for. After having no success in trying to get Valverde sacked, shareholders went on to a further step and to eliminate the root of the problem. A motion of censure was filled in against the board of the club. The board managed to stay firm and stay for a couple months, but they were forced to sack Enersto Valverde on 15 January 2020 to release some pressure and calm things down.  

A new era?

After sacking Valverde, something that annoyed the players very much, the club Hired Quique Setien as the new head coach. He was labeled to be the one to get the team back on the right track and return the identity. Nevertheless, that wasn’t going to be an easy job. The players had just lost the manager that they were comfortable with, the one who didn’t demand too much from them and always let them have it their way. And, they were willing to do whatever it took to show their unhappiness.

From the start, it was clearly noticeable that the players weren’t pleased to have Setien as their coach. Even though he only had good intentions and wanted to return the club to where it belonged, the players weren’t too interested, taking into account that he wanted to take them out of their comfort zone. 

The end

After the competition took a break for the covid pandemic, it was time for Barcelona to face Bayern munich in the championship league. The fans weren’t too optimistic about that match, but they surely weren't expecting what was about to happen. Barcelona went on to lose 2-8 in what is remembered as the most humiliating result in recent history of the European competition. The players didn’t show any kind of passion on the field and looked like they were just letting their opponent score so they could prove a point. After that disastrous performance, the club was forced to sack Quique Setien. Setien only lasted 8 months in charge and will be remembered as one of the worst managers in the history of the club.

How does this connect with organizational behavior?

As humans, we don't always go for what is right. We don’t like to admit that things are going wrong and that changes need to be made. We are lazy, this can be worse when we’ve already reached a lot of success, even on world class athletes. The board of Barcelona gave too much power to the players. That allowed them to dictate what needed to happen or not. In a normal situation, players are at a club to play, the head coach to manage, and the board to regulate different aspects of the club. Nevertheless, that wasn’t the case in that era. The players glorified the coach that was letting them whether they wanted and neglected one who came with the mentally of having strict club norms and doing this right. Quique Setien was disrespected by the players and staff of the club, who claimed that he wasn’t good enough or prepared to coach a club as Barcelona. Setien declared that he lost his “passion” for football and isn’t interested in coaching anymore after what he went through at the club.


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