Many sports have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, with the multi-billion dollar football industry dealt a potentially ruinous blow as clubs and leagues face up to an existential threat.
While Setien remains certain at least one constant will remain, with Messi continuing his Barcelona career into 2020-21, he sees the wider game suffering and wonders if it should have been better prepared.
Asked whether any club could now afford a fee such as the €222million it took to buy Neymar out of his Barcelona contract two and a half years ago, Setien frowned at the prospect.
“No. I don’t think there is anyone who can spend that much,” he told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“And small clubs have water in their throats. Many companies lived on the limit and at the first serious jolt they went into crisis. Football lived at an uncontrolled pace.”
Setien says there is a great need for football to return, but he harbours reservations about rushing back onto the field.
The Spanish season could resume in June, with clubs set to return to training this month.
“It is clear that everyone’s desire is to start again, and we are preparing,” Setien said.
“However, it is equally clear that the situation is not simple, and is made up of three elements: the heart, which pushes hard towards the field, health, which must remain the top priority, and the economy, because this crisis has hit hard.
“We are experiencing a dramatic moment and although we have a huge desire, even an extraordinary need to return to play, we want to do it only in complete safety. Ours and whoever is with us: warehouse workers, masseurs, employees…”
Setien has no doubt six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi will be along for the ride, for the rest of this season and into next term, discounting the possibility of a close-season departure.
Friday marked 15 years since Messi scored his first goal for Barcelona, and one year since he netted his 600th for the club.
It is said to be stipulated in Messi’s contract that he can walk away on a free transfer at the end of each campaign, but there is such a tight bond between the Argentinian and the Catalan club that it seems unlikely.
Inter have been credited with an interest in Messi, but Setien is not concerned, even if there has been conflict between the club’s star man and senior management, most notably sporting director Eric Abidal, this season.
“No, because it won’t happen,” Setien said, when asked if he was worried. “Messi and Barcelona will always be united. It’s just like that. Leo has been at Barca for 20 years and nobody could explain a breakdown situation.
“Certain things happen at such big clubs, it is normal that there are conflicts. But they get resolved. There is a great feeling in the relationship between Messi and Barcelona, something that goes beyond money and interests.
“Everything must be done so that Messi is supported at his best so that Barcelona can continue to win as in the last 15 years.”