Julen Lopetegui, the manager of Sevilla, was reduced to tears after the end of the match.
Jesus Navas and Julen Lopetegui can't contain their emotions..
— Football on BT Sport #Club2020 (@btsportfootball) August 21, 2020
Indeed, it was cracking final of the UEFA Europa League where Lopetegui’s side, yet again, came from behind to win the title for the sixth time.
A rare lapse from Ever Banega on the edge of the Inter box allowed the Italians to break, and pantomime villain Diego Carlos then took center-stage.
Carlos, who conceded penalties against both Wolves and Manchester United, continued his bizarre streak as he found himself the wrong side of Romelu Lukaku, who he eventually hauled down in the area.
Inter were awarded a penalty, but Carlos escaped a red card.
—Penalty conceded vs. Wolves
—Penalty conceded vs. Man Utd
—Penalty conceded vs. Sevilla
Diego Carlos in the Europa League knock-out stages has been a wild ride so far ? pic.twitter.com/zu5OG0cA3S
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 21, 2020
Lukaku scored from the penalty spot and equaled Ronaldo O Fenomeno’s 34-goal record in one season for Inter back in 1997-98.
Lopetegui’s side regrouped and start fighting back.
Luuk de Jong, one of the most heavily criticized players in Spain this season, again showed his worth as he did with the winner in the semi-final.
A clever stooping header from Jesus’ Navas’ cross gave Samir Handanovic too much to do, and he soon followed that up with an even better goal – again with his head – as he met a marvelous delivery from the exceptional Banega.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) August 21, 2020
Given he had previously lost his place in the team to Youssef En-Nesyri, being restored to the line-up was a big call by Lopetegui, but the Dutchman – scorer of just eight goals before this game – vindicated the decision.
Carlos was again under the microscope for the equalizer. His needless foul led to Marcelo Brozovic’s free-kick, and Diego Godin lost the former Nantes defender to nod home.
The second half was a tensed affair.
Sevilla continued to see more of the ball, but Inter appeared to have a greater threat in attack.
Lukaku failed to beat Yassine Bounou when one-one-one and Sevilla took full advantage.
— Fútbol en Movistar+ (@MovistarFutbol) August 21, 2020
Inter failed to clear a corner and Diego Carlos unleashed a bicycle-kick, which Lukaku turned into his own net with 16 minutes to go.
Lopetegui’s redemption was completed.
A highly-rated coach in Spain’s youth set-up, Lopetegui landed the first job in elite club coaching when he took over at Portuguese giants Porto in 2014 but was sacked 18 months later after failing to win a trophy.
He was named Spain coach and led his nation to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in style but his stay in Russia ended in surreal circumstances when he was sacked a day before the tournament kicked off when news leaked out that he had negotiated a move to Real Madrid.
He then had a nightmare stay in the Spanish capital, losing the UEFA Super Cup to Atletico Madrid and then saw his side thrashed 5-1 by Barcelona. He was sacked the next day, only three months into the job.
⬅️ Sold 15 players in Summer
➡️ Brought 14 new players in
?? Qualified for #UCL
? #UEL winners
? Take a bow, Julen Lopetegui! pic.twitter.com/B5zbbMRtfV
— SPORF (@Sporf) August 21, 2020
Since his Madrid sacking, Lopetegui nearly became the manager of English side Wolverhampton Wanderers and was also reportedly rejected for the role of United States national team coach in 2018.
But he was hired by Sevilla at the start of the 2019-20 season and guided them to a top-four finish in La Liga, while he also masterminded the Europa League success which saw them beat Roma, Manchester United and of course Antonio Conte’s rejuvenated Inter Milan in the final.
The last two years have been tough for Lopetegui and all those dramas with the national team and nightmares in Real Madrid made him a forgotten identity in the football coaching fraternity.
But Lopetgui kept going and in the end, the ghost of the World Cup in Russia and the nightmare in Real Madrid have been buried.
“Lopetegui works 24 hours a day, he has given everything for us and he has got the best out of us. He deserves everything,” said Jesus Navas.
12th June 2018: Announced as Real Madrid manager
13th June 2018: Sacked as Spain manager
29th October 2018: Sacked as Real Madrid
5th June 2019: Appointed Sevilla manager
21st August 2020: Wins his first managerial trophy.
Really feel happy for Julen Lopetegui. pic.twitter.com/xkApUQo38m
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) August 22, 2020
After the match, Lopetegui dedicated the trophy win to the Sevilla fans who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus pandemic while also paid tribute to late ex-Sevilla stars Jose Antonio Reyes and Antonio Puerta.
The coach said, “My players are very great, they have worked a lot. They have always put hope and desire.”
Lopetegui stated that his boys never surrender and certainly, the way Lopetegui fought back during the tough times, the same spirit was evident among the players of Sevilla throughout the tournament.
From moulding together what was essentially a brand new squad, to establishing a new style of play that secured Champions League football and another European success for Sevilla, Lopetegui answered his critics resoundingly.
What an amazing tale of redemption!