El Centrocampista

Sevilla and Michel must improve on mid table mediocrity

The disappointing exit at the qualification stage of last season’s Europa League proved something of a precursor to the nature of the campaign ahead for Andaluz side Sevilla last August.

While there was little shame in the 3-2 aggregate defeat to strong Bundesliga side Hannover 96 – a team who were unlucky to go out of the tournament at the quarter final stage to eventual winners Atletico Madrid, the financial implications were obvious. After just missing out on the cash cow of Champions League qualification three months previous, their premature exit from Uefa’s second club competition proved detrimental in their hopes of attracting, and in fact keeping, big name talent at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Despite a strong finish from Gregorio Manzano’s side, it proved too little too late as Villarreal pipped them to the remaining Champions League spot. In the aftermath of this disappointment, a number of key players left the club as President Jose Maria del Nido looked to reduce a wage bill bereft of the income guaranteed from securing a place in La Liga’s top four – the subsequent failure to reach the still-considerably well rewarded group stage of the Europa League did little to relieve the strain.

Despite the early setback, however, Sevilla began the league campaign fairly well last term – going unbeaten in their first nine encounters until a 2-1 defeat to unfancied Granada at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in late October stopped them in their tracks. It was then the problems began for newly-appointment boss Marcelino and his side. Six losses in 10 games saw Sevilla plummet down the table and the coach was replaced by Michel in February, the former Getafe boss steadying the ship somewhat before guiding them to a fairly underwhelming ninth place.

Nonetheless, Michel signed a new one-year deal in June and immediately began preparations ahead of the upcoming season. Frustratingly for the Coach, he has had to do this without a number of players, as the board look to further reduce their wage bill. Fan favourite Freddie Kanoute bid an emotional farewell after seven seasons and over two hundred games for the club, and Uruguayan international Martin Caceres made a permanent switch to Juventus after spending the second half of last season on loan at the Italian champions.

Despite these departures, the club have managed to keep hold of their two biggest assets; Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas, and have also bolstered the squad with some intriguing additions. Alberto Botia and Diego Lopez are well known to La Liga fans and are likely to become first team regulars, and the capture of youngsters Geoffrey Kondogbia from French side Lens and Chilean starlet Bryan Rabello from Colo Colo offers some real potential for the future.

While a place in the Champions League may prove beyond Sevilla this season, the Andaluz side certainly have the capabilities to secure some form of European football. Del Nido and his board have performed admirably in the transfer market this summer, with the capture of Botia from Sporting arguably holding the potential to be the move of the summer.

The pressure is on Michel now, however. Having played over 450 games for Real Madrid and Spain, it’s fair to say the 49-year-old hasn’t quite hit the same heights as a coach. A reasonable start at the club will need to be improved during his first full season. Failure to qualify for Europe may just make it his last.

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