The bigger they come, the harder they fall – Sevilla have won seven Europa Leagues, if they are relegated to the second tier this May the resounding thud as they hit the deck will echo around Europe – the stage on which they have shone time and again over the last 20 years.
Five managers in two seasons, infighting between the former and current president, who also happen to be father and son, and failings in the transfer market have contributed to the current crisis that sees them sitting fourth from bottom of LaLiga with only three wins all season.
For the beginnings of their fall from being the fourth force in Spanish football it’s necessary to go back a few seasons. There have been too many wrong turns in too short a period of time.
Sevilla are just above the LaLiga relegation zone after losing 3-2 at home to Alaves on Friday
Pressure is mounting on Sevilla boss Quique Sanchez Flores who is the latest in the hotseat
Your browser does not support iframes.
Wrong Turn No 1
The bedrock of Sevilla’s success in the 2019-2020 season (winning their sixth Europa League) had been the central defensive partnership of Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos. But by 2022 both had been sold and then Sporting Director Monchi failed in his mission to adequately replace them.
Marcao and Tanguy Nianzou arrived from Galatasaray and Bayern Munich respectively but the Brazilian has started only five games since, and the Frenchman 17. Injuries have been a problem for both, especially Marcao, and Nianzou has looked too raw to step-up.
It further riles Sevilla fans that Diego Carlos is currently shining at Aston Villa where Monchi now plies his trade.
Marcao has started only five games since since joining Sevilla in an injury-plagued spell
Wrong Turn No 2
At the end of the 2021-22 season Julen Lopetegui had delivered a third-straight fourth-place finish but the coach was in need of a new challenge and the club also felt a refresh would suit them.
Lopetegui should have left before the 2022-23 season started, amicably and with all the plaudits he deserved, instead they kept him on for the first seven games and only then made the change when they were fourth from bottom as they are now.
Julen Lopetegui was the first boss to leave Sevilla in a decision that was ill-timed as too late
Wrong Turn No 3
They replaced him with Jorge Sampaoli and they couldn’t have hired anyone more different to Lopetegui if they’d tried.
His high press, high risk, play-out-from-the-back football was completely alien to players who had played Lopetegui’s style for three seasons. Sampaoli lasted 19 league games.
Marcos Acuna ripping a sheet of instructions that Sampaoli had passed to his players mid-game became the defining image of his tenure.
Jorge Sampaoli succeeded Lopetegui but that appointment failed to work and he soon left
Wrong Turn No 4
When Jose Luis Mendilibar came in to replace Sampaoli with 12 games left last season Sevilla were also struggling in the league but he saved them and won the Europa League.
His reward was to be given just eight games this season before he was sacked.
Jose Luis Mendilibar guided Sevilla to Europa League glory but was sacked earlier this season
Wrong Turn No 5
At the start of this season the priority was a new striker. Youssef En-Nesyri needed someone to compete with him, even more so as he was going to be away for the Africa Cup of Nations.
It was the big job of Monchi’s successor Victor Orta in the summer and the player he came up with was Mariano Diaz. He had scored the grand total of six goals in his previous five seasons hanging on at Real Madrid while his contract ran down.
Unsurprisingly it hasn’t worked out.
Sevilla have recruited poorly and failed to provide support for striker Youssef En-Nesyri
Wrong Turn No 6
When Mendilibar was sacked Orta turned to Diego Alonso who had never coached in Europe. That’s not necessarily the recipe for failure, Manuel Pellegrini had never coached in Europe before guiding Villarreal to the Champions League semi-finals.
But Alonso came without a convincing track record and left after just eight league games having failed to pick up any LaLiga wins.
Diego Alonso lasted just eight LaLiga matches before he too was shown the door this season
So will they really go down?
Quique Sanchez Flores is trying to make the best of an unbalanced squad that is short of an effective striker. There are young players coming through. Right back Juanlu Sanchez is promising and striker Isaac Romero has been prolific for the B-team in the fourth tier but it might not be enough.
Sergio Ramos has no shortage of experience. Bringing back Spain’s all-time greatest defender has produced varied results to date. Another veteran defender was not what the squad most needed in the summer and Sevilla are still shipping too many goals – five in the last two home games. But his know-how might help Sanchez Flores as he tries to keep the team up.
Sergio Ramos’ (right) experience will be sorely needed by Sevilla if they are to avoid relegation
What helps no-one is that all this is being played on a backdrop of political turmoil and infighting. Jose Maria del Nido Benavente was president of the club from 2002 to 2013 when they won three of their seven Europa Leagues plus two Spanish Cups, a European Super Cup and a Spanish Super Cup. He wants to be in charge again but his arch-enemy (and son!) Jose Maria Del Nido Carrasco is the greatest obstacle to that because he took over as President at the start of this year. The son is open to talks but it seems the father is not. ‘You’re a s***,’ he told his son at an AGM at the end of last year.
The three worst teams in the division currently occupy the bottom three and the fact that Sevilla are better than Almeria, Granada and Cadiz ought to save them. But if any of the bottom three improved drastically in the second half of the season Sevilla are currently first in line to go down in their place.
Current Sevilla president Jose Maria Del Nido Carrasco (right) is arguing with his father
Orta is working hard to make this an effective window and there are already three new recruits. Hannibal Mejbri arrives on loan from Manchester United, Stanis Idumbo Muzambo signs on a permanent deal from Ajax, and they have borrowed holding midfielder Lucien Agoume from Inter.
Muzambo is only 18, Mejbri is 20 and Agoume is 21 so they all add youth and vigour to an ageing and tired-looking squad. They look like exciting deals for the future, Sevilla supporters are just hoping that future is not in the second tier.