Sevilla’s mastermind sporting director, Monchi, is helping to deliver a best-ever season for Sevilla. But will it be a swan song before leaving La Liga?
Happiness can last for months…years…decades, but it never lasts forever.
Such a dichotomy has numerous examples in the football world: projects start from the ground up, develop further, reap the benefits along the way and, sooner or later, someone decides it’s time to call it a day. And, right now, Sevilla’s brilliant sporting director Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo – Monchi – seems ready to set off into the sunset.
Last summer, Monchi wanted a graceful exit. A guy who has changed the meaning of the phrase ‘one-club man’, as he was able to both play successfully (he was Sevilla’s goalkeeper for ten years) and, after retiring, start up a revolution inside the club’s offices.
The 48-year-old has been the sports director for sixteen years straight, and the results couldn’t be more impressive: in that time, the club has won the Europa League five times, two Copa del Rey trophies, a Spanish Super Cup and a UEFA Supercup. With all of those shiny items cosily packed in his suitcase, he is expected to be able to travel abroad to expand and improve his expertise at another club (rumour has it that a Premier League side is involved).
But the Sevilla board slammed the door shut, and denied Monchi his request. If he wanted to walk, he would have to pay a prohibitive compensation. So Nervion’s mastermind had no option than to stay. He made good use of his time, though: he signed prestigious manager Jorge Sampaoli, suffocated any rumours regarding a premature departure to become Argentina’s new boss, and enhanced and strengthened an already notable squad: Ben Yedder, Joaquin Correa, Pablo Sarabia, Salvatore Sirigu or Manchester City’s own Samir Nasri.
In six months, the team’s performance has skyrocketed them into La Liga’s second spot, just behind Real Madrid.
The focus has not been lost in Europe, as the Spanish side has successfully moved through to the next UEFA Champions League phase. Fans are happier than ever, thrilled by a team who plays dynamically, with a very offensive style, many options in any position on the pitch and a demanding manager who will never expect anything less than greatness.
And, yet… something’s ‘off’ with Monchi. He laconically expresses, from time to time, that it will soon be time to move on. “The sporting director has chewed the person”, he said a few weeks ago, feeling that uncomfortable burnout syndrome that any top professional may suffer occasionally.
Rumours just keep swirling, with keen interest coming from Italy (AC Roma) or France (Paris Saint-Germain). “I feel like testing if I’m capable of doing what I did in Sevilla in another place”, he added earlier this week in another interview.
Both the club management and the fans tremble at this prospect, but Monchi himself put them at ease by explaining that he has no intention of leaving in February and that he won’t pay the buyout clause that binds him to the side he has led into a glorious present. Eventually, however, that day will come. And, indeed, the possibility of Monchi’s departure after a sixteen-year successful run has never been so tangibly real.
From hero to zero: Madrid’s downward spiral knocks them out of La Copa
This season’s biggest upset came on a rainy January night. After last week’s shocker at the Bernabeu (1-2), Celta had to prove themselves and to the world that they could be consistent enough to fend off a presumably hurt Real Madrid. And they did it in spades.
After forty straight games without a loss, Zidane’s omnipotence has come crashing down after amassing two defeats and last night’s draw (2-2) in the last four games, getting knocked out of La Copa and haplessly watching as Sevilla and Barça catch up to La Liga’s top spots.
Celta proved its might with some beautiful football, performed by an inspired Iago Aspas, a crafty John Guidetti and a top-level finish by Daniel Wass in the goal that buried Real’s chances of getting the upper hand. This time, the epic final-minute comeback was nowhere to be found.