In beating Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-2 on Wednesday evening to win the Europa League final, Sevilla not only retained the trophy but were claiming victory in that tournament for the fourth time in ten seasons after first winning the UEFA Cup in 2006. The success against the Ukrainian team confirms the Sevilla reputation for consistency since their promotion to the Spanish La Liga in 2001, but it could also be asserted that the team has never been able to attain the standards set by Real Madrid, Barcelona and to a lesser extent Atletico Madrid and Valencia in Spanish domestic football.
Although Sevilla have always been a top ten team since the 2001-02 La Liga season, they have only once ever clinched the league title and that success dates back to the post-war era of 1946. Two Copa del Rey titles have been earned this century but Sevilla just cannot achieve that ultimate breakthrough of securing a league title or performing with distinction in the Champions League. They have failed to qualify for the quarter-finals in three attempts at the more prestigious European club competition in the last ten years.
Since Unai Emery was appointed manager of the team in 2013, their success in the Europa League has been worthy of much merit but financial problems have ensured that two successive fifth places in La Liga is probably the best position that the team can currently achieve. Sevilla failed to beat Barcelona or the two Madrid teams during the recently finished campaign and lost all three away matches.
Their well-documented cash-flow problems necessitated the sales of Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Nava to Manchester City in 2013 with Colombian striker Carlos Bacca arriving from Club Brugges and Kevin Gameiro signed from Paris-Saint Germain as much cheaper replacements.
Yet both players have instrumental in helping Sevilla improve upon their relatively modest league campaigns when finishing only ninth in the previous two seasons. 28 year old Bacca had netted 25 league goals in his final season with the Belgian team but continued that impressive rate in Spain by claiming 34 goals in two league campaigns with Sevilla. He also scored twice in the Europa League final on Wednesday evening.
French born Gameiro never really succeeded at PSG when moving there from Lorient, where he was a prolific striker, but he has been successfully used as substitute by Sevilla netting 23 goals in two campaigns, often as a ‘Last Goalscorer’.
Both players have proved the ability of manager Emery in recruiting talent at a fairly cheap price, but as their Europa League victory now ensures that Sevilla automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League, there will be pressure to strengthen the squad still further and prove their ability to compete with the very best European football clubs.
Sevilla have lived in the shadow of Barcelona and Real Madrid for many years and may be unable to compete financially with those two iconic teams, but next season will determine whether they are capable moving onto that ‘next level’ as described in football cliché terms.