Updated Sunday,10December2023-23:40

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"It's a shame! We have to do something." After listening for a while, Carlo Ancelotti exploded. I couldn't believe what colleagues such as Quique Setién, Álvaro Cervera, Rubi and Luis César Sampedro had just said. Xavi Hernandez and Diego Simeone, equally surprised, echoed him: "Nobody defends us. We have to come together and stand up." The coaches of the big three had gone to the meeting called last month by the Coaches Committee of the Federation (CTE) with the idea of talking about refereeing, but they had just discovered that they are an exception in the current reality of the union: if you are fired (and sooner or later everyone is fired), Good luck collecting what you're owed. Non-payment is the norm.

Lies, blackmail, pressure... Anything goes.

Five First Division coaches have open cases in the ordinary justice system to resolve those debts. Those are the ones who haven't budged. Most forgive some of their money before they go to trial. Clubs always lose in court, but they win in the process. The origin of this situation was a change in regulations of the last decade. Until then, if a club sacked the coach, it couldn't sit another on the bench until everything was sorted out with the sacked one. LaLiga considered that it gave a bad image for the competition to see teams without headless and proposed to end that limitation. The Federation, on which the technicians depend, agreed.

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Unai Emery.

A day in Birmingham with the 'boss' who takes the 'villains' to Europe: "I've never had a project like this"

  • Written by: INMA LIDÓN

A day in Birmingham with the 'boss' who takes the 'villains' to Europe: "I've never had a project like this"

Quique Setién.

"I've thought a thousand times that I'd be more handsome if I were quiet, but I'm incapable."

  • Written by: IÑAKO DÍAZ-GUERRA

"I've thought a thousand times that I'd be more handsome if I were quiet, but I'm incapable."

"The first few years, perhaps out of habit, they were still compliant, but now they have learned the trick. They say it's fair dismissal and take it to the ordinary courts. It's their modus operandi. They know they're going to lose, because we've won every case that has gone to judgment, but it's worth it. If they lose, they give you the same thing they were going to give you but two years later. If you give up and agree, they win," sums up Quique Setien, whose trial with Villarreal will be on July 14, 2024, almost a year after his dismissal. He already experienced something similar with Barça, who called him to pay him five days before going to court... and 16 months after kicking him out.

Setién is the only one of the six coaches who have spoken for this report who agrees to do so with his first and last name. They have all trained in the First Division for the last two years, they have all been sacked and they have all experienced similar situations. "The problem is that the clubs have all the power. If you talk, you get scarred and that can end your career. There's a lot of fear. Take away the big three, who move to other heights, and we are a hundred coaches of a similar level fighting for 17 benches. The managers know this and use it," explains one of the technicians who has a trial underway.

Last season there were 27 dismissals between First (11) and Second (16). In the current one, there are already 11 (five and six) before Christmas. The rhythm doesn't stop.

"They accuse you of the ugliest things"

"It's becoming more and more comfortable to kick us out," says a coach now abroad whose last experience in the First Division ended like almost all others. "I was fired and had two years left to pay, but in the end I accepted one and a half. Why? Because now we also have to be accountants. If you go to court, even if you win, the money is given to you without interest and you have to hire an employment lawyer who will charge between 10 and 15 percent of what you are paid. That and wait a couple of years to see a euro. In the end it doesn't compensate you and that's what clubs play with to get you to give in. They pervert the laws in their favor and you are left looking like an asshole forgiving hundreds of thousands of euros that are yours," he explains. And he concludes: "But the worst thing is not that, the most unpleasant thing is the whole process. They say and do anything, they have no ethics. Anything goes as long as I don't pay you."

What do they say? What are you doing? Let's start with the words. Setién says: "When the clubs sack you, they write a list of charges where they put a series of lies without any basis to try to turn that dismissal into a fair one. It never helps them, but they don't care. They accuse you of the ugliest and most implausible things. I spent a year at Villarreal and they didn't complain, they kept me in the summer, but now they're supposed to have done an investigation according to which I'm useless. Things that you can't take for granted, like I didn't even know the squad because I made a mistake with Yeremi Pino's name when I arrived. Good luck explaining to the judge that mistaking you for a name is grounds for dismissal. It doesn't even hurt anymore, but it does hurt my family to be insulted in public."

They accuse me of arriving drunk and assaulting a prop man

And Quique's is no exception. "They said I was late and had no idea how to do my job, that I was old and I was going crazy about talking. It was all a lie, but it defames that something remains," says a veteran with his last bench still fresh. We continue with the crescendo with a technician who has already won his case: "They took employees to testify against me, some I had not even seen and others I considered to be my friends. They painted me as a bastard who treated people badly. It was very painful. Then several of them asked me for forgiveness because they had been forced." And another coach immersed in the trial sings bingo: "They accuse me of arriving drunk and assaulting a prop man." In all three cases, the judge dismissed those stories.

All these accusations are accompanied by the clubs of mechanisms to force the coaches to agree. And where I write "mechanisms," they say "blackmail." "It is exactly what it is. They fire you, but they keep your weakest helpers, the ones who get paid the least, and they beat them up. They look for the most humiliating and unpleasant work and put them there. Then they tell you that, if you want them to be released and collect their severance pay, you accept an agreement in which you forgive a good part of what they owe you. Tremendous stuff," explains Setién and we make the rounds to see if it's so frequent.

There is a plenary session.

"Mine were put in the darkest room in the training ground to watch videos of Bulgarian matches and make reports day after day." "My physical trainer, who has worked for years in the Champions League, was sent to Alevín C." "They kidnap them and demand ransom. I got another job, I wanted to count on them and they had them passing the ball to 10-year-olds until I gave in and made a deal." The most seasoned already has this when he signs a contract: "To avoid blackmail, which I have suffered a thousand times, I negotiate a total amount for myself and my team and I pay them. We all went in and out together. They can't hold them back like that."

Fede Yankelevich

Is it really that big of a deal? Are clubs such stereotypical villains? We asked for their version of three of the entities that have open trials with their former coaches. Almeria, in a dispute with Rubi, declines to respond with great kindness, explaining that he is now only concerned about the team's bad moment. Villarreal (Setien) clean me up with much less courtesy because they are in a hurry (?). Manuel Vizcaíno, president of Cádiz, who has been in dispute with Álvaro Cervera for almost two years, answers. "The law is for everyone, there is no special law for coaches. Clubs have the right to appeal to the ordinary justice system and for the judge to decide according to current legislation. I'm not going to deny that there are clubs that take advantage of it to delay payments and force agreements, although that's not our case. Anyway, what they do is within the law. You have to look at both sides of this issue," he reflects.

And what is the other side, according to the leader? "The coaches claim to have the right to override the labour legislation and they are also trying to use it to their advantage. In our case, we believe that, when he thought we were going to be relegated, Cervera got out of the way to force a dismissal whose compensation was higher in the First Division. They act knowing that they will almost always win the trials. We ask for the same thing as them: that the law be obeyed." LaLiga is in the same vein, ensuring that the regulations are in line with the law and that coaches are subject to the same conditions as any other worker.

3% of the salary, for the CTE

Álvaro Cervera preferred not to speak for this story for fear that it could be used against him in the trial, but denied having forced his removal. His teammate, who has already won, says: "We are always accused of the same things, but the procedure is very clear. If I'm late, drunk or don't fulfill any of my duties, the club has to open a report for me and send it to the Federation. Do you know how many of those accusations that suddenly appear to justify the dismissals have the support of one party? Zero."

The Federation, specifically the CTE, is under suspicion. He should be the one to defend the coaches, but they don't see it that way. "The Federation has sold us out because it is judge and party. If you look at the assemblies of LaLiga and the RFEF, they are the same. They agreed to change the law knowing that it harmed coaches and allowed for prolonged defaults because we don't care. Of course, 3% of our salary is given to the CTE, that's what it's for," explains the immigrant. Setién is somewhat more conciliatory: "The CTE has changed leaders and, now, at least it has good intentions, but it has no real power."

Cruyff, Zidane or Xavi didn't meet the requirements to train here, but we allowed them to do so because they were stars

The CTE recognises that the problem exists, hiding behind the fact that it is inherited and assuring that they will study trying to reverse the rule in the next RFEF-LaLiga agreement, since the current one expires in July 2024. They also assume that it would be difficult to achieve. Despite this, they disagree in part with the accusations of their members: "They are not non-payments, they are delayed payments. In any case, they are First and Second Division coaches with no financial difficulties, not the worker in a factory. They can afford to wait." It's not an argument that is very popular. "That's not their problem. I may have a sick family member with a lot of expenses, be addicted to gambling, or want to buy my daughter a house. It doesn't matter. That money is mine. Period," cries one of the technicians on trial.

Everyone repeats the idea of creating a union as a solution, but the oldest is skeptical: "A lot of the blame is ours because we swallow everything. Cruyff, Zidane or Xavi didn't meet the requirements to train here, but we allowed them to do so because they were stars. Jémez raised his voice and was killed. We can't manage two Spanish teams in the same season, which is something that you take to the European justice system and win in two minutes, because many coaches are waiting for a teammate to be killed to get on the bench and that rule takes away their competition. To each his own."

Setién is more optimistic: "Something is changing, that meeting has mobilised us and we will see if we lose our fear. Hopefully because it's a shame. LaLiga's mouth is full of the fact that it is the best in the world and it does not manage to get its coaches to get paid." From abroad they also take a shot at the employers: "Tebas, who looks so much at the Premier League, should ask themselves why Lopetegui, with a thousand offers, is still not coaching. There, by law, he continues to religiously collect his weekly paycheck, as if he had never left Wolves, until the contract ends or I sign for another one. So you can choose when and how. If you want to attract talent, take care of it."

And he says: "They treat us like cattle and it would be nice to prove, for once, that we are not cows."

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