Sevilla’s Batman returns to the city for a manic mission to save the campaign of a club being overshadowed by its arch enemy
For a while, Joaquin Caparros’ similarities to actor Michael Keaton went much further than only physical resemblance. Indeed his Sevilla squad between 2000 and 2005 was, like Batman himself, accustomed to kicking ass and taking names, becoming a side which pestered the opposition with a blend of direct playing style, streetwise attitude and no-prisoners mentality that owed more to the ‘Bad Boys’ Detroit Pistons than a traditional football team.
Regarded for many years as the mastermind who, under a very close collaboration with sports director Monchi, built up a Sevilla which would eventually become a powerhouse both in Spain and Europe, Caparros was always wanted back in Nervión. Especially as the traditional Sevillista playbook has mutated into something barely recognizable, first with Unai Emery – it worked both for him and the team, though – and later with Jorge Sampaoli, Eduardo Berizzo and Vincenzo Montella.
— Sevilla Fútbol Club (@SevillaFC) May 5, 2018
If we talk about KO tournaments, Sevilla weren’t doing badly to date: the Spanish side reached the Copa del Rey final – losing 5-0 – and were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals by Bayern München, after getting past a not-so-formidable Manchester United coached by José Mourinho.
Again, not bad if we think that they didn’t actually begin the season under Vincenzo Montella: as everyone remembers, it was Eduardo Berizzo sitting on the bench but the Argentinean was sacked in December after a run of bad results, just weeks after the manager had announced he was suffering from cancer (he is now clear of danger, thankfully).
Berizzo’s ultimate demise was the blueprint for Montella’s sacking: underperforming in La Liga. Sevilla, a club with a huge $232 million budget this season (fourth in LaLiga, just behind the megaton $825 and $1,000 million plus of Atleti, Barça and Real Madrid), had been slowly but steadily losing steam since February, when the Italian coach infamously stated that there was “no chance” Real Betis would finish above them in the table. When he said that, Sevilla sat comfortably in fifth place with 42 points.
Two-and-a half-months later, Betis sat in fifth after winning seven out of eight games and Montella got the boot with his team stuck in eighth with 48 points. Not impressive.
Since Monchi’s departure in the summer of 2017 with Rome as a destination, the board had been thinking of a top-to-bottom refurbishment of the sports area. Talks with Caparros began months ago, because they wanted half of the dynamic duo to come back and help a club in need. Caparrós was game from the beginning: after all, he has always expressed desire to come back ‘home’, to the place where he made a name for himself in the football world and where he arguably achieved his biggest feats.
However, the position they offered Caparrós had nothing to do with Sevilla’s bench. That’s what the board claims. But, in times of need and the team in dire straits, the president offered Caparrós the chance of coaching the side for the last four games of this season. And he said ‘yes’ in a heartbeat.
It only took him a few days to get down to the locker room, take a long look at the players, talk to a few of them privately, make slight changes in the line-up and get his first win. It was, quite expectedly, a gritty game against Real Sociedad at home, in the stadium he left thirteen years ago. A Banega penalty goal was enough to snatch the three points: a narrow win based on a tough-as-nails defence and experience on the pitch.
“Caparros, Caparros!” The chants could be heard in the stands in the game’s final minutes. Probably Joaquin’s job won’t last further than these final games, but he needed less than a week to give back to the Sevillistas a tiny bit of that pride lost in the Copa del Rey thrashing against Barça or the Champions League knockout vs Bayern. His job will be more office than on-the-ground oriented, but that doesn’t mean that his charisma won’t be felt and welcomed by Sevilla fans, quite the special ‘Bat Cave’ of his own.