You don’t know what you have till it’s gone. Sevilla thought they knew just how sweet life was under Monchi, but only now, 12 months after their renowned sporting director announced he’d leave the club where he’d spent his entire career, do they truly realise what they had.
Since Monchi departed, Los Nervionenses have struggled and they sit eighth in LaLiga, currently outside the European qualification spots. A trip to the Copa del Rey final and a Champions League last-16 victory over Manchester United suggests to the casual observer that 2017/18 hasn’t been so bad for the Andalusian side, but one impressive two-legged cup win over Atlético Madrid and one famous night at Old Trafford cannot mask what has been a disappointing campaign.
The roots of Sevilla’s struggles are in last summer’s transfer business. Following Monchi’s departure for Roma, Óscar Arias was promoted from within and took over as sporting director. While some of last summer’s deals were already in motion when Monchi left, the majority of the 2017 summer business was done under Arias’ management. As such, he has been the one blamed for the minimal impact of the new arrivals.
Sevilla signed nine players last summer and a further four in January, but hardly any of these new recruits have made a significant impact. Only Éver Banega and Jesús Navas form part of Sevilla’s most-used XI for this campaign, and they are both former players and, therefore, they were not freshly scouted by Arias and his team.
Centre-forward Luis Muriel, meanwhile, was signed from Sampdoria for €21.5m, but he hasn’t hit double figures in terms of goals and it was only when Monchi-signing Wissam Ben Yedder was finally substituted on at Old Trafford that Sevilla got the goals to get past Manchester United in the Champions League.
The next most expensive signings from last summer were centre-back Simon Kjaer and defensive midfielder Guido Pizarro, but both have been shown up on too many occasions and have been singled out for blame by the local press after some of Sevilla’s horror showings, with the side having conceded five goals on six separate occasions this year.
As for the emergency January signings, Sandro still hasn’t scored a goal since joining from Everton, Roque Mesa has played just 72 minutes since coming in from Swansea City and Miguel Layún has contributed several defensive mishaps of his own. Guilherme Arana, who was bought from Corinthians, can be let off the hook for now because he is one for the future.
The managerial appointments and sackings have been messy as well. Eduardo Berizzo was brought in last summer to take over from Jorge Sampaoli after the Argentine couldn’t be convinced to stay. The start to the season wasn’t great, but the decision to sack Berizzo three days before Christmas and with the coach having been diagnosed with cancer – which he has, happily, since been given the all-clear for – was a bad look. The fact that the team were in fifth place and just five points off Real Madrid in fourth and the fact that they didn’t already have a replacement lined up made it even more peculiar.
It took a week for them to hire Vincenzo Montella and things got even worse under the Italian, culminating in the humiliation of losing the Copa del Rey final 5-0 to Barcelona, the joint record defeat in the history of the Spanish cup final. Three days later the club announced that they’d be sticking by their coach until the end of the season, but three days after that they lost 2-1 to Levante and changed their mind, sacking him.
Even if these coaching calamities haven’t necessarily been Arias’ fault, the lack of leadership and class in the handling of these sackings has proven that the club lacks something in the boardroom. They lack the kind of leadership Monchi came to epitomise.
Arias has been sacked too and will step down from the sporting director role at the end of the season, but this isn’t likely to be the waving of a magic wand to solve the institution’s problems. A new sporting director will be hired within a month, probably from outside the club, but he too will encounter a vacuum where Monchi used to be.
Many believed thought Sevilla was a well-run organisation, but it may have been the case that there was turmoil beneath the surface and that Monchi was the world-class plate spinner keeping the whole operation going. It’s amazing to see just how quickly things have turned sour at Sevilla following his exit. Those at the Estadio Sánchez Pizjuán now realise even more so just how important Monchi was. Now that he’s gone.