The Sevilla players were happily celebrating the 3-0 win against Manchester United in the locker room. José Luis Mendilibar left the booth for a moment to greet two friends. Hundreds of Sevilla fans who were celebrating their pass to the Europa League semifinals began to chant the name of the Basque coach, who, overwhelmed, responded to the chant and went back into the locker room. Sevilla had qualified for their seventh Europa League semifinal on another magical night at the Sánchez Pizjuán. Something unthinkable before the arrival of the veteran coach, 62, on the bench. Sevilla had put in the best game of a gray season that, however, can end in a great way. Especially since he is another since the arrival of Mendilibar.
Sevilla employees asked Mendi before playing at Old Trafford in the first leg of these quarters if he was going to put on a suit to lead the team. “Always in a tracksuit,” he replied. This is how he has dispatched one of the greats of world football. Sevilla has taken a radical turn since Zaldibar’s man is in charge. There are only five games, but they have obtained seven out of nine possible points in the League after defeating Cádiz (0-2) and Valencia (0-2), and after drawing with Celta (2-2). The team has gone from being two points from the relegation zone to being eight. In addition, they have brilliantly eliminated Manchester United (5-2 on aggregate) and are in the semifinals of the Europa League. In these five games, Sevilla have scored at least two goals in each game, with a total balance of 13 goals for and four against.
“The key is that they believe in what I ask of them. It was a special night, because of how the stands were, because they were going to help us and this club is special with this competition. And we have seen the things that I like, like that pressure up front that has given us the first goal”, stated Mendilibar himself at the end of the game. “The key is simplicity. I don’t ask for weird things. I speak and I am understood. I have been like this since I started at Regional, always, simple and direct ”, recalled the coach who has changed the face of Sevilla.
“Sampaoli was outrageous with that game backwards. Mendilibar is a great coach and we have a contract with him until the end of the season. We are going to wait for that end”, affirmed the president José Castro, very dissatisfied with the previous coach, who has just signed for the Brazilian Flamengo. “We are very happy with Mendilibar. He is experienced and makes things simple. There are some new things that we are improving, such as pressure and knowing how to win the second play. In addition, each one is in his place. Before we expected more and now we are going for the rival ”, affirmed Fernando, one of the most emblematic players in the Sevilla dressing room due to his seniority and weight in the group. Like Rakitic. “Mendi has brought joy to the team in his own way. There is a point of discipline. If you’re 10 seconds late at the start of the work session, he makes you do somersaults. He is very different from Sampaoli, he is a different style. Soccer is not easy. We have needed three coaches this year, ”summed up one of the Sevilla captains, who had the best game of the season against United, like practically all of his teammates.
Confidence restored with an easy and direct method, the Sevilla players now feel liberated. With their heads cleared by the coach, the Sevilla team will face a beautiful Europa League semifinal against another of the greats of European football, Juventus. The first game will be in Turin on May 11. The return will be on the 18th in the capital of Andalusia. It was precisely in Turin and against Benfica that Sevilla won their third Europa League in 2014 in a penalty shootout, the first for Unai Emery on the bench. Now, another Basque, Mendilibar, will try to repeat the feat.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.