Setien, 64, said certain habits had set in that he was unable to change and made him compromise on his coaching style.
“Barca was the team I had always dreamed of coaching, but if you see there are things you can’t change, you should leave,” he told El Larguero on Thursday after his first game in charge of Villarreal, a 2-2 draw against Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa Conference League.
“But it is an opportunity you have dreamed of forever. And arriving through one door and leaving through another the next month like [Jose Antonio] Camacho did [at Real Madrid in 1998]… There was a moment I thought about it, but you overcome those moments. If there are things that don’t fit, you should not be a hypocrite and you should go.”
Setien took over Barca in January 2020 after the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde. He was sacked in August of the same year after missing out on the LaLiga title to Madrid and losing 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
“When you arrive at a club that has been winning everything for 14 years… there are some habits that I had never seen,” he added.
“There are things you can’t change because they are so established and it is not an easy situation. It was a huge learning experience. I would do it again, without a doubt. You learn from everything to get better in the future.”
Setien’s relationship with some of the key Barca players at the time was one of the main reasons he was unable to succeed at Camp Nou. He acknowledges that working with Messi was not always straightforward.
“It is not worth speaking about Messi,” he said when asked about the Argentina international. “Everyone should remember how he has been, for me, a permanent attraction in football for 14 years. I spent 14 years watching Barça’s games waiting to play against him to be able to see him [live].
“That is how I want to remember Messi. I can’t say if he disappointed me. There are things I liked and others that I didn’t and I had to fight with that. If on top of that he scored three goals against you in every game, you can’t say anything. There are always players that can be harder to deal with that you make certain allowances for.”
Setien previously threatened to take Barca to court over money they owed him from his contract termination, but he said they are on track with their payments now.
“Barcelona still owe me money but they are complying with the schedule religiously,” he said. “I gave them three years to pay me and they are doing so.”
Villarreal lost 3-0 to Barcelona last week prior to Setien’s appointment. He will not face his former side until February, when they host Xavi Hernandez’s team in LaLiga.
The Villarreal job is Setien’s first since he left Barca over two years ago.
“I was not convinced I would get an opportunity somewhere where I could fit,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful surprise. Villarreal had a coach [Unai Emery, who left for Aston Villa] who was doing really well and it didn’t seem like this job would come up.
“I have had offers, but nothing really appealed to me. I could have gone to the United States, I am attracted by the county, but then I got the surprise call to come here.”