Boasting the illustrious title of Spain’s oldest organisation devoted solely to the beautiful game, Sevilla Fútbol Club has been trailblazing a path from the autonomous community of Andalusia since January 25, 1890. But, an establishment steeped in tradition, domestically and on the continent, is now embroiled in a challenging relegation battle, with Los Nervionenses struggling to maintain their elite status in 2024.
It seems almost unthinkable that the seven-time winners of the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League find themselves in this precarious position, but, despite the best efforts of Sergio Ramos, Jesús Navas and newly departed Ivan Rakitić, victories have become all too difficult to come by during an altogether forgettable campaign.
At 35 years old, Ivan Rakitic is providing much-needed decisiveness to Quique Sanchez Flores’ plans to rescue Sevilla’s dismal season.
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) December 24, 2023
On paper, this Sevilla squad is bursting with experience, talent and household names. But, the miles accumulated on that legendary trio and a panel approaching an average age of 29 highlights a fundamental flaw within the establishment of this group. The structure of the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, nestled proudly in the heart of the southern lines of the Iberian Peninsula, is quaking.
For many across the globe, bewilderment is the general response towards the club’s precarious scenario. Lest you not forget, following a 4-1 penalty shootout victory over José Mourinho’s Roma in Budapest in May 2023, Sevilla are the reigning holders of Europe’s secondary cup competition. But, in reality, the victory at the Puskás Aréna papered over the cracks of a failing system, and the inevitable issues within the club are playing out every week.
Following a 1-1 draw against La Liga rivals Osasuna on Sunday, January 21, Sevilla sit in 16th position, a solitary point above Cádiz in the final relegation spot, with much work for their newly appointed head coach, Quique Sánchez Flores. Astonishingly, with 22 fixtures played in Spanish football’s honoured division, his side has only mustered three victories, enduring defeat in 50% of their outings to date.
The point gained against Jagoba Arrasate’s side at the weekend was the fourth that Flores has earned in six domestic outings following his arrival in December 2023. Additionally, he temporarily lifted spirits in the stands with a brace of victories in the Copa del Rey before inevitably falling at the quarter-final stages against Atlético Madrid. With close to 650 fixtures across 13 different managerial tenures, the Madrid-born tactician must harness all his abilities to extend upon his side’s 23rd consecutive season in La Liga.
He has inherited a collection of players coming to terms with a third leader since October, with Diego Alonso and José Luis Mendilibar failing to reignite this disgruntled group. But the issues we see today scale back to the previous campaign following the departure of defenders Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, followed by fan-favourite Julen Lopetegui.
The class of 2021/22 enjoyed a stellar campaign, tasting defeat only four times towards a fourth-placed finish – their third in as many years – solidifying their reputation as a perennial competitor in the UEFA Champions League. But within a matter of months, with the departures of leading players coinciding with what many supporters feel was a lack of ambition, began the chain of events that has spiralled to the present day.
Four defeats in seven fixtures at the beginning of the 2022/23 season left the side with five points from a possible 21. One further defeat against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League four days later led to the dismissal of Lopetegui. Jorge Sampaoli took the reigns for five months, earning a credible victory over Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid and ending their 40-match unbeaten run before his dismissal in March ahead of the arrival of Mendilibar.
When José Luis Mendilibar took charge in March, Sevilla were two points above the relegation zone.
Since then, they’ve won seven, drawn three, lost once, and they’re 90 minutes away from reaching the Europa League Final for the seventh time.@ftblnatt: https://t.co/D7gv5i9dou pic.twitter.com/tICxDuOwWW
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) May 18, 2023
The events of this hideous season, coupled with a lack of necessary activity in the transfer market, led to an unthinkable fall from grace, resulting in a group-stage exit from the Champions League, a quarter-final departure from Copa del Rey participation, and an alarming fall to 12th in La Liga. Despite the public haemorrhaging of this proud Spanish outfit, success in that previously mentioned Europa League final provided a temporary plaster.
Unfortunately for the partisan Sevillistas, 2023/24 began with the departure of star goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and a failure to respond to the perils endured in the previous campaign. With elimination from the Champions League group stage without a single victory, Club President José Castro Carmona departed after a decade at the helm. Ironically, despite the precarious situation, Carmona oversaw one of the most successful periods in Sevilla’s history with a staggering return of five Europa League titles.
Having served as deputy secretary of the Board, secretary of the Board, a Board member and Vice-President for 16 years, José María del Nido Carrasco succeeded Carmona as the new president on December 31, with his predecessor remaining as Vice-President. Carrasco highlighted his goals immediately, with a platform for success to address the fundamental issues within the club.
He told officials at his first press conference: “I am clear about the path ahead. First, I believe that the aim is to get the team to where they deserve. We need to give maximum support to our new coach and the squad so that the team reaches its potential as soon as possible by earning points, and, winning matches and getting our fans at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán excited again. We have a January transfer window in which we want to be active and complement the work that we did in the summer with the squad. We are clear about our sporting model, focusing on young players and placing a greater emphasis on our academy.”
A focus on the academy was a welcome statement for the club’s support, with many yearning for their proud traditions. However, despite a suggestion about utilising a January window to complement a forward-thinking vision, the loan signings of Lucien Agoumé and Hannibal Mejbri thus far represent the sole arrivals at the club. Furthermore, Manchester United’s Mejbri appears sidelined in Spain, with Flores advising that he has much work to do before consideration for selection.
As we approach the end of January, the five-time Copa del Rey winners failed to win in their previous five league outings – scoring four and conceding a staggering tally of 12. Carrasco and Flores have to cement a partnership capable of toppling four of the league’s top eight sides throughout February, and they do not have the privilege of a pre-season to do so.
But, despite the issues surrounding the duo and their ageing squad, the support of this majestic football club remains heroic. They are aware of the mismanagement over the past 24 months, and they have lived every second with continued attendance and undeniable loyalty. As their players embark on a colossal task for the remainder of the season, the ’12th man’ of the Blanquirrojos is required more now than ever.
By: Shaun Connolly / @shaunconnolly85
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto
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