Barcelona supporters have backed the club’s assistant coach Eder Sarabia after he was filmed cursing the team’s performance and appearing to criticise Antoine Griezmann and Gerard Pique among others, in the Clasico on Sunday.
Images captured by Spanish television channel ‘Gol’ showed mild-mannered Quique Setien’s fiery No 2 Sarabia raging at Barca players during the 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid.
But when Gol polled supporters, 76 per cent responded that they believe Sarabia’s reactions were ‘normal’. Only 9 per cent thought they were excessive with 15 per cent labeling him a ‘show-off’.
Gol’s lip-readers got to work on some of the 39-year-old No 2 comments after the game on Sunday night.
According to Gol Sarabia raged at Griezmann’s first half failure to beat Thibaut Courtois by shouting: ‘Put it in Griezmann, no! Softer!’
He also responded to two Nelson Semedo errors by saying: ‘He doesn’t do anything that he should do.’
He then shows his frustration at Arthur Melo: ‘Again Arthur, again… f***ing …’
And he complains about Barcelona’s pressing when he says: ‘Again Benzema is able to do what the hell he likes,’ and he appears to shout at Gerard Pique: ‘S***, this is s***. These f****** long balls.’
Frenkie de Jong and Arturo Vidal also appear to be in Sarabia’s line of fire with the crux of his complaints being how cheaply Barcelona gave the ball away.
The supporters responding to Gol’s poll seem to be glad that someone is watching from the sidelines with a passionate and critical eye. But some commentators have suggested that the images have not got down as well with the Barcelona players used to a more reserved second coach. Ernesto Valverde’s No 2 Jon Aspiazu was inconspicuous and Luis Enrique’s assistant Juan Carlos Unzue had a similarly low-profile.
They both still managed to court controversy. Aspiazu said in a pre-match interview [often done by the No 2s before games] that Ousmane Dembele had ‘now overtaken’ Philippe Coutinho in the pecking order, infuriating the Brazilian’s camp. And less publicly Aspiazu reportedly fell out with Neymar after a training ground confrontation.
Sarabia has to be fiery some say, so as to balance out the laid-back approach of Setien. The Barcelona manager hired Sarabia when he was at Las Palmas having been impressed by his work in Villarreal’s youth system. They then both moved together to Betis before the shock call came in from Barcelona.
Sarabia’s father Manu Sarabia played almost 300 games for Athletic Bilbao and was a team-mate of Setien’s at Logrones when Eder was an eight-year-old with the dream of making a career for himself in football.
He never made the grade as a player and it’s been argued that that is part of the reason why his style sometimes grates with players. People defending him on social media have used the image of Zinedine Zidane barking instructions from the touchline in the 2014 Champions League final while No 2 to Carlo Ancelotti, asking if it was okay for this No 2, why not for Sarabia?
He has been sent off six times and missed 10 games because of bans since working alongside Setien although he is yet to be cautioned while at Barcelona. According to Diario AS on Wednesday, Setien has tried to calm down his bad-cop sidekick on several occasions since taking charge.
Sarabia is clearly more than just a big voice in the dug-out. He has developed a reputation for masterminding his team’s opening plays out from the back using the goalkeeper as an extra man. And he has become the set-piece specialist coach taking charge of both attacking and defending free-kicks and corners.
He usually comes out into the technical area, replacing Setien, when Barcelona have a set-piece in their favour or to defend.
In his defence last Sunday he was not out in the technical area when his comments were picked up.
There are also those who say a little more passion is exactly what Barcelona need, not just in the dug-out but out on the pitch.
All eyes will be on him this Saturday against Real Sociedad. It’s a game Barcelona must win and if they fail then, as with last Sunday night, the wider picture will be under the microscope. Win, lose or draw, a ‘Sarabia-watch’ in Sunday’s sports papers and football shows is all but guaranteed.