Having won the World Cup three times, Brazil were given the Jules Rimet Trophy to keep. By this measure, two Europa League trophies should be permanent residents at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Indeed, no club is as synonymous with the second tier continental competition as Sevilla who have won it no fewer than six times between 2006 and 2020.
The Andalusians have their sights set on even greater prizes, though. While Sevilla have established themselves as a European force, they have still to prove themselves at Champions League level. The aim now is to make sure they never have to play in the Europa League, as good as the tournament has been to them.
There aren’t as many clubs in Europe as efficient at navigating the transfer market as Sevilla. Indeed, they have earned themselves great acclaim over the years for their smart and shrewd recruitment. This, however, depends on sales just as much as it does purchases and so Sevilla have struggled to build something lasting.
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Now, though, something feels different. Monchi is back as the sporting director at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan after a two-year stint at Roma and the 52-year-old has been briefed with assembling a squad capable of lifting Sevilla to the elite level of the sport. They must make their Champions League place stick starting with disposing of Borussia Dortmund in this season's last 16.
One of Monchi’s first acts upon his return to Sevilla was to hire Julen Lopetegui, who at the time was deemed damaged goods following a 2018 that saw him sacked as both Spain manager on the eve of a World Cup
and then sacked by Real Madrid just a few months later
. But while many saw a joke figure, Monchi saw one of the best coaches around.
He was right to think this. Lopetegui has turned Sevilla into one of the most dynamic sides in La Liga. They are the perfect modern football team in that they are comfortable in the possession side of the game, but also in the thrust they have through the lines of transition. The high level of coaching is clear in the players on the pitch.
Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos are among Spain’s best centre back pairings. Now 35, Jesus Navas has been converted into a highly productive, and seemingly ageless, wing back. Fernando provides protection in midfield while Joan Jordan and Ivan Rakitic offer control. Then there’s Lucas Ocampos and Youssef En-Nesyri, the energetic and adaptable forwards who have scored 23 goals between them this season.
If Sevilla were lacking something in the first half of the campaign, it was a creator to replace Ever Banega, who left the club last summer. Enter Papu Gomez, the irrepressible former Atalanta midfield inventor whose play is similar in many ways to that of Banega’s. The 33-year-old has already found the net for his new team and looks to have bedded in well in the space of just a few games.
While the La Liga title challenge many predicted Sevilla would mount this season hasn’t materialised, this is a team heading in the right direction. Barcelona and Real Madrid are both in the midst of a generational transition and from that there is an opportunity for Spanish football’s established order to be shuffled. Sevilla are in a good position to take advantage. The only limit to what they can achieve with Lopetegui and Monchi at the helm is in the money they have to spend, and that has never been an issue before.
Round-up: Four penalties awarded in Seville first half on a night of Champions League ill-discipline
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