Sevilla face transfer woes

Summer of discontent for Sevilla

June 22, 2013
By Dermot Corrigan, Spain Correspondent

Jose Maria Del Nido was pretty blunt when he spoke days after the 2012-13 season had ended with the club in ninth place, their worst Primera Division finish for a decade. The Sevilla president admitted that the mid-table position was disappointing, but deserved - as a number of years of poor transfer dealings had left the club with its worst squad in a long time.

Jesus Navas
GettyImagesJesus Navas has left for the English Premier League and Manchester City.

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"We have a squad overvalued by ourselves," Del Nido said. "We have made the mistake of overpaying for players given what they have shown on the pitch. We cannot make these types of errors again."

Rojiblancos fans who had grown used to celebrating trophies such as the 2006 and 2007 UEFA Cup and the 2007 and 2010 Copa del Rey were warned it would be a while before they saw such success again.

"We must stop talking about the 'Sevilla of the trophies'," Del Nido said. "All the players from this era are now gone. We must build again, with the experience and capacity we have, with the humility of 2004 and 2005, a project of three years in which we will once again make the right decisions when signing players."

Del Nido, who has cycled through six first team coaches since that 2010 Copa win, was attempting to deflect any blame from himself, while pointing the finger squarely at sporting director Monchi. The former Sevilla goalkeeper's transfer nous was widely hailed in the mid-2000s when he cheaply built a team buying Dani Alves, Julio Baptista, Ivica Dragutinovic, Adriano Correia and Freddie Kanoute. But his stock has since fallen as more expensive bets on the likes of Abdoulay Konko, (€8.5 million), Romaric (€8.5 million), Aquivaldo Mosquera (€8 million), Arouna Kone (€12 million), Ernesto Javier Chevantón (€8.9 million) and Didier Zokora (€9 million) have all proven disastrous.

While technical staff colleague Victor Orta has left for Zenit Saint Petersburg this summer, Monchi was kept in place to try and correct his former errors. It now looks like it will be another very, very busy summer of comings and goings at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan. Jesus Navas and Andres Palop have already left, and the only recent signings which have worked well - Alvaro Negredo, Federico Fazio and Ivan Rakitic - could all follow.

There is also still plenty of dead wood to clear out. In a pretty typical fiasco, Tiberio Guarente was signed from Atalanta for €6 million in the summer of 2010, but has made just three starts for Sevilla since, partly due to a knee injury. The Italian midfielder, now 27, was on loan at Bologna last season, but the Serie A side have baulked at paying the €2.5 million needed to make the move permanent.

Spanish centre-half Alexis Ruano (€5 million in 2010) will also be returning from loan at Getafe, as they are unlikely to pay much to take him for good either. Ditto Argentine forward Lautaro Acosta (€7 million in 2009), who spent last season loaned out at Boca Juniors, and the previous campaign parked at Racing Santander.

Decisions also have to be made about last season's benchwarmers Baba Diawara, Alberto Botia, Manu del Moral and Miroslav Stevanovic, who current coach Unai Emery does not appear too keen on. So many names make even many Sevilla fans' minds whirl, but the revolving door shows no sign of slowing.

Sevilla president Jose Maria Del Nido
APSevilla president Jose Maria Del Nido

Stevanovic, Diawara, Botia and del Moral have something else in common besides their disappointing performances last season. They all (plus Negredo and Jose Antonio Reyes) feature on the website of third party investors the Doyen Group, suggesting that Sevilla do not fully own very many senior players at all. Doyen also have an interest in Geoffrey Kondogbia (admittedly a transfer success) but he is also expected to move unless Sevilla can persuade his handlers that another year at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan would ultimately be to everyone's economic advantage.

Youth development used to be a strength at Sevilla, with the club's excellent cantera system producing talents like Sergio Ramos, Reyes and Navas. Ramos and Reyes both fetched top prices when they left, allowing Monchi to work his magic (for a while at least) while Navas stayed and the trophies followed.

The club's knack of selling cleverly is continuing with €8 million from Liverpool for as yet unproven attacker Luis Alberto and €2 million from Aston Villa for left-back Antonio Luna, whose career appears to have stalled after a bright start.

Less positive is the uncertainty over the future of Alberto Moreno, who has just won a European Under-21 Championship winners' medal with Spain, but is still on a youth team contract and could therefore be tempted away. When Moreno was asked this week if Monchi or Del Nido had been in touch with congratulations, the 19-year-old joked that they probably could not spare the change for the call. Meanwhile, the club's relationship with talented midfielder Jose Campana – a starter with Spain at this week's Under-20 World Cup in Turkey – has been rocky for over a season now.

All the uncertainty has caused quite a lot of concern among journalists and fans around Seville, which Monchi tried to quell this week.

"It will be a summer with lots of patience, we have clear first options for arrivals and departures, although it will not all happen as soon as the fans expect," he said. "This is an ambitious summer and it is worth the pain of waiting a little so that we have the time to move for our primary targets. We are not stalled, but neither are we in a rush."

The names of many of these targets are known already. Romanian international Raul Rusescu, 24, has already arrived from Steaua Bucharest for €2 million or so, while Monchi has acknowledged his interest in attacking duo Helder Postiga and Paco Montanes of recently relegated Real Zaragoza. Diego Castro from Getafe has also been heavily linked - with the possible advantage that his name also features on the Doyen site. Matias Suarez of Anderlecht and 21-year-old Bulgarian midfielder Georgi Milanov are believed to be targets too.

Geoffrey Kondogbia
GettyImagesGeoffrey Kondogbia has been one of the rare transfer success stories at Sevilla.

Such names may not really appease rojiblanco fans who have become increasingly fed up with the way their club is being run, aware that the club's debts have risen past the €100 million mark and worried about the Doyen Group's influence. The Sanchez Pizjuan has seen increasingly loud protests from supporters who have decided they are just not going to take it any more. Del Nido and the clubs Biris ultras have been feuding all year, but even when they were boycotting games, chants of 'Del Nido vete ya' (Del Nido go now) were regularly heard around the ground.

Given Jesus Gil's former associate was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail for the misappropriation of public funds in December 2011, you might have expected Del Nido to have left the scene by now, but an appeal to the sentence remains ongoing with no end in sight. The wily operator remains in firm control of all business at the club and takes personal charge of the bigger transfer deals.

What makes the situation even more difficult for many Sevilla supporters to stomach is that change brought such success across the city at Real Betis. An 80,000-strong fans' march through the city in 2009 helped oust Betis' long-time owner Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, with the club forced into administration and slipping down to the Segunda Division, but emerging after two years in a much stronger and healthier position on and off the field. Betis were seventh last season, their first finish above Sevilla since 2005 and although also set to lose key players this summer, their future looks bright under clever coach Pepe Mel and elected president Miguel Guillen.

Meanwhile Emery - who appears to be staying although he has little say in transfer policy - faces an uphill task to try and turn around his side's increasingly alarming slump. It now looks quite possible that left-back Fernando Navarro (30) will be the only first choice player from just 12 months ago who starts the 2013-14 season at the club. A lot will depend on how much of the money raised by selling Navas, Negredo and company is given to Monchi to spend, and whether he can find his former magic touch in the market.

Otherwise, Sevilla's fans' patience will surely wear out completely.