Las Palmas Spain
Quique Setien never wanted to be a manager. And yet he has transformed tiny Las Palmas into a team worth watching.
They never dreamed of this, and their manager never really dreamed at all. Have a look at the league table, just as they have had a look daily - hourly, even - for the last fortnight as if scared that it might have changed, determined to enjoy every moment of this. You'll see what they see. The best team in Spain right now, the team at the top of the league, isn't FC Barcelona or Real Madrid. It's Unión Deportiva Las Palmas.
Las Palmas haven't been there for 38 years. Until last season, they hadn't even been in the first division for 14 years and eight weeks into the 2015-16 campaign, they sacked their manager. The team lay second from the bottom, and the truth is that many thought it unfair and, frankly, pretty pointless. After all, Paco Herrera had brought them back up, more than a decade later and there wasn't much more he could do. They wouldn't be any better under a different manager.
Actually, it turned out that they would. They won just four of their first 17 games last year but slowly, things would change. Under Quique Setien, they lost just four of their last 13 and three of those came when their season was as good as over, safety secured. They lost just 2-1 to Barcelona and 2-1 to Madrid, actually unfortunate not to overcome both. Now, momentarily at least, they have: Spain's big two sit beneath them this weekend.
It's only Week 3 of the campaign, sure. And it won't last; everyone knows that. But still: 38 years. Thirty-eight. And this isn't purely a fluke; last season shows that. The football they have played so far this season shows it too: two wins out of two, nine goals scored, no scraped victories, no lucky wins. Last season it took until December for them to score as many; this time, they managed it before the end of August. No one dreamed of this. And no, Quique Setien didn't dream at all.
That's what he says, anyway. Setien was a talented footballer, smooth and technically gifted. He says he would have cut off a finger to have played with Johan Cruyff's Barcelona "Dream Team." Setien went to the 1986 World Cup with Spain without getting a game. But he also says he was a bit different and when it comes to management, he didn't really have any ambition. He was a player. He liked playing. And that, it seemed, was pretty much that.
When Setien took over at Las Palmas last season, he was making his first division debut as a coach... at the age of 58. In part because he had been overlooked, yes, but in part because he had never chased it either. "My ego had been satisfied by playing, " he said. At the end of his career, he played beach football (he was a Spanish international for seven years), and when he did take over as coach at Racing Santander, his hometown team, he said it was "circumstantial." He had not so much as coached a youth team game before.
Spells followed at Poli Ejido, Logrones (where he went unpaid for seven months) and Lugo. He took Lugo up. 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