A time of peace and goodwill to all men was missed by Sevilla, who fired their cancer-suffering coach over the Christmas period
On Wednesday night, Sevilla racked up an easy win in their opening 2018 game: a Copa del Rey fixture against Cadiz (0-2) with Nolito and Jesús Navas scoring the goals.
It was the only ordinary thing that has happened in Sevilla over the past fortnight.
On December 22nd, the club board released a statement that shocked many outside the city: “the decision to sack the first team manager, Eduardo Berizzo, has been taken due to the current bad run of the team”. An aseptic, soulless paragraph, matching the decision to kick in the gut a coach who is currently battling prostate cancer – as Berizzo himself announced on November 23rd – and who, to date, was responsible for leaving Sevilla fifth in LaLiga’s standings and in the Last 16 rounds of the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
Results that would have 90% of LaLiga teams merrier than a band of dwarves were the reason for Berizzo’s firing.
Many Sevilla fans will agree on the choice made. It is true that the football displayed wasn’t that eye-catching or dominant. It is true that Sevilla lost huge showdowns and were crushed in away games like the one in Mestalla (4-0). It is true that backlash towards the manager has been consistent since September.
And yet… sometimes, football just isn’t that important, you know?
Ejecting a man who is currently battling a serious illness, who underwent surgery in the first days of December in order to recover as soon as possible and come back to the bench, who never sought excuses or cop-outs when his team didn’t deliver… It’s a cold, cold move.
Criticism towards Sevilla’s board has been huge, especially from outside the city. On paper, it’s mind-boggling, gut-wrenching move to make. But they went forward with it. It’s their call. For good or bad, this decision will follow them for quite a long time.
— Sevilla FC (@SevillaFC_ENG) January 3, 2018
José Castro, Sevilla’s president, dismissed any rebukes and insisted that “whoever says this doesn’t actually know how the club works”. “We’re a very demanding club and our gut-feeling wasn’t right both in results and playing style”, he added. Castro said there were no hard feelings with the Argentinean manager after he left.
Flash-forward a few days later, when the rumors began swirling on the new manager’s identity. After several attempts, Sevilla finally locked in Italian coach Vincenzo Montella, who just had agreed the conditions on his exit from AC Milan, where he never was able to achieve the level of success that the Rossoneri side expected after a huge investment last summer. The deal will include the reminder of this season and also next year.
Enjoying open door training with the best fans in the world to start our year ?⚽
— Sevilla FC (@SevillaFC_ENG) January 1, 2018
So, when we get down to it, Sevilla sacked a guy who knew the league inside out and had plenty of experience managing a team with the challenge of reaching the European spots and hired a coach who was kicked out of AC Milan for not meeting expectations only a few weeks ago, with no experience of LaLiga’s inner workings and with the pressure of being successful in a very short time. That sounds promising, right?
Montella’s first steps have been getting to know his new players as fast as possible. He also succeeded in rebuilding bridges burnt between Berizzo and midfielder Stephen N’Zonzi, a key player who had clashed several times with the former manager and who, in turn, hadn’t played since late November. While the midfielder waits for a possible transfer, he will play under Montella as he is hopeful on a call-up by France for the 2018 World Cup.
Sevilla took a bold move during the Christmas holidays and nobody can predict if it will pay off. Regardless of this fact, the football world has seen how soulless a big business – ultimately every club is one – can become. No memory, no feelings, no humanity. Just stats, wins, losses and perceptions. Berizzo learnt that the hard way.