For supporters of Barcelona and Sevilla in Spain, the prospect of travelling to Tbilsi on the south-eastern edge of Europe would not have been a particularly pleasant prospect as both teams contested the European Super Cup in midweek. What followed as last season’s Champions and Europa League winners shared nine goals over 120 thrilling minutes, may have improved the mood of those fans. Barcelona won the match 5-4 with Pedro netting the decisive fifth goal in extra-time after the teams drew 4-4 during normal time.
Despite Neymar’s absence due to illness, Barcelona had assumed a 4-1 lead at one stage with Lionel Messi netting twice from direct free-kicks within the opening 15 minutes, but they then allowed Sevilla a foothold in the game as Jose Reyes reduced the arrears. It may have been Barca complacency or just good play by their opponents as Kevin Gameiro then converted a penalty and a late Yevhen Konoplyanka equaliser ensured that an extra 30 minutes play would be required.
Yet Sevilla were unable to clinch the cup despite scoring four goals against Barcelona and perhaps that game summarises the way in which the team continues to be successful within Spain and in Europe but just cannot emerge from within the shadow of Barca and Real Madrid in terms of genuine stature.
Perhaps the summer transfer activity of both clubs provides an indication of their relative strengths and aspirations with the Spanish La Liga campaign due to begin on the 21st August. Despite a transfer embargo being imposed on Barcelona for the entirety of 2015, they have recruited Sevilla utility player Aleix Vidal for 17 million euros and Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid for 34 million euros. Neither player can feature for the Catalan team until January 2016, but that hasn’t prevented the club from purchasing one of the better players from two of their rival teams for the La Liga title.
Meanwhile, Sevilla have lost the services of Vidal and also the prolific Carlos Bacca (to Milan) from their squad with Ciro Immobile arriving on a season-long loan deal from Borussia Dortmund and the useful Konoplyanka signing for the club after a successful period for both Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and the Ukrainian national team.
It was another of summer acquisitions which highlighted the difference between the two clubs contesting the European Super Cup. With Stoke City selling French defensive midfield player Steven N’Zonzi to Sevilla for a fee of approximately 10 million euros, this deal surpassed the previous record purchase for the Spanish club.
There may be further transactions at Sevilla before the closure of the summer transfer window but none which is likely to equate with the more expensive deals negotiated by their more high-profile Spanish rivals. Progress in this season’s Champions League might allow manager Unai Emery more financial muscle in future transfer windows but there is a lingering sense that Sevilla may never quite eclipse Barcelona both domestically or in Europe, as happened that night in Tbilsi.