The summer months are those that Sevillistas dread the most and with good reason. As temperatures soar well in excess of 40°C in Europe’s hottest city, fans of Sevilla FC brace themselves for high profile departures from a club that once again exceeded all expectations last term.
Even Champions League qualification and 9 trophies in the space of a decade isn’t enough to convince their hottest properties to stick around for long and less than 2 months after their latest Europa League Final win against Liverpool they are left picking up the pieces once more after a flurry of key figures departed the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
Unai Emery, who led the club to 3 consecutive Europa League wins left last month to take over as coach of PSG and he took with him Sevilla’s influential Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak. The departure of Ever Banega to Inter last week had been touted for a while but robbed the Andalusian club of another of their best players and left a big hole in the middle of the pitch needing to be filled.
To make matters worse, Sevilla’s biggest blow is perhaps yet to come. Sporting Director Monchi, who many credit as being the true mastermind behind their incredible success over the past decade has already asked to leave the club this summer. His request was turned down by Sevilla but given his phenomenal record in the transfer market it may only be a matter of time before another club is willing to match the €5million buyout clause in his contract.
With or without Monchi, they face a large re-building job with José Antonio Reyes having also departed the club and the man charged with leading Sevilla into the new Primera Division and Champions League campaign is former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli.
For all the sadness at seeing Emery depart, there is optimism that the Argentine could be the man to continue the Sevilla success story. He has never coached in Europe before but the enterprising style of play that he instilled in Chile drew admirers far and wide and has brought plenty of success to the South American side. They won Copa America under Sampaoli last year and defended their crown in the United States just a couple of weeks ago.
His appointment is a bold and exciting one and we are starting to get the first glimpses of how his Sevilla side might shape up. Certainly Sevilla’s transfer activity so far has suggested they are very much looking to the future and they have just completed their biggest transfer of the summer so far by signing Joaquín Correa for €13million from Sampdoria.
The 21 year old attacking midfielder looks like the long-term replacement for Banega but is still something of an unknown quantity having only made 14 starts in Serie A last season. Much like his compatriot, Correa is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and likes to run at defences and fire in shots from range but it will be a big ask for him to immediately take over the role as the team’s chief playmaker.
Sevilla have though already brought in a few other players this summer who could help to share that burden. Japanese international Hiroshi Kiyotake also excels in the number 10 role and had a fine season in the Bundesliga with Hannover last term. The 26 year old looks like another savvy purchase at just €6.5million and more creativity and midfield spark should come from fellow new-boy Pablo Sarabia, who has looked destined for bigger and better things ever since he broke into the Getafe side in his late teens and should now finally get his chance to shine on a bigger stage.
The Andalusians have also signed Matías Kranevitter on loan from Atletico Madrid and the 23 year old should get more game-time this season following a frustrating first year at the Vicente Calderon. If Sampaoli can get the best out of his fellow Argentine then Kranevitter could be the man to fill a Grzegorz Krychowiak shaped hole in the heart of the Sevilla midfield and it could be a real breakthrough year for him.
Sevilla are masters at the art of recovering from the departure of key players but even by their standards this has been a highly transitional summer and we are only half-way through it. There can be doubt that Sampaoli is an impressive coach but even he must have a little trepidation as he prepares a team that suddenly has a youthful feel to it for daunting Super Cup games against Real Madrid and Barcelona that will commence their season.
It’s certainly a baptism of fire for the for the 56 year old who has never previously played or coached in Europe. It is one that he will no doubt relish though and it will give us the first clues as to what to expect from Sampaoli’s Sevilla.