BLOG ESPANA
Tuesday July 5 2016
Change and uncertainty in Andalusia

Four clubs, four new Coaches, four new projects. Colin Millar analyses the changes in the south of Spain.

After a season of consolidation, it has been a summer of change in Andalusia. The season’s end saw ‘business as usual’ in the province - Sevilla retained the Europa League, Real Betis and Malaga both achieved their targets of mid-table safety and Granada avoided relegation.

In the six weeks that have followed all four clubs have changed their Coach, Sevilla’s famed sporting director Monchi decided to leave before opting to stay, Betis have a new sporting director, Granada have had a change of ownership and the Andalusian airports have been busy with the revolving doors at all its clubs.

Sevilla are used to turbulent summers, but few have been as tumultuous as the current one. After securing a Europa League title in each of his three full seasons in charge of the club, Unai Emery departed Los Rojiblancos to join French champions Paris Saint-Germain. Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak soon followed Emery to Paris, while his central partner Ever Banega signed for Inter.

The Sevillistas are familiarised with key departures but fear one above all else - Monchi, the director of football whose recruitment process and scouting network has been the foundation for the club’s success since his appointment in 2000. He told the club’s board of directors that he wanted to quit but the board stood their ground and ultimately Monchi backed down, refusing to pay the clause to cancel his contract and promising to honour the agreement, which has four more years to run.

Monchi quickly got to work, securing highly-coveted Jorge Sampaoli, who had departed the Chile national side in January after guiding them to a remarkable Copa America triumph and being named on FIFA’s three-man shortlist for 2015 World Coach of the Year award, alongside Luis Enrique and Pep Guardiola. Sampaoli is famed for his high-pressing and attacking emphasis of play, a disciple of fellow Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, whom he played alongside at Newell’s Old Boys.

There have been player additions too, creative duo Hiroshi Kiyotake [Hannover 96] and Pablo Sarabia [Getafe] have arrived and holding midfielder Matias Kranevitter, on a season-long loan deal from Atletico Madrid, is imminent, while several more signings are expected.

It is all change across the city too as Real Betis appointed Gus Poyet to replace outgoing interim boss Juan Merino while they also instilled Miguel Torrecilla as their new director of football. Torrecilla, who spent seven years at Celta Vigo, has spent no time restructuring the squad with six new arrivals already announced.

Charly Musonda [Chelsea] has returned to Heliopolis on a season-long loan after becoming an instant fans favourite at the Benito Villamarin. Highly-rated full-back pair Aissa Mandi [Reims] and Riza Durmisi [Brondby], midfield duo Jonas Martin [Montpellier] and Felipe Gutierrez [FC Twente] and promising Spain Under-21 winger Nahuel [Villarreal] have also arrived.

The drastic reshaping of the squad is set to continue with up to four more arrivals rumoured. There have also been a raft of player departures including veteran striker Jorge Molina, while attempts are still being made to shift Rafael van der Vaart from the wage bill.

Down on the Costa Del Sol, Juande Ramos has been appointed as Malaga Coach for his second spell at the club. The 61-year-old left Los Boquerones in 2004 before stopping at five different clubs including Sevilla, Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid.

Ramos replaces the outgoing Javi Gracia, who joined Russian outfit Rubin Kazan after a two-year spell in Andalusia. Gracia won many plaudits for guiding cash-strapped Malaga to ninth and eighth-place finishes despite constant departures of star players and having to rely heavily on the club’s youth system and loan deals.

Seven of those loan deals have now expired, but another - Serbian midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic [Basel] - has joined, while Burkina Faso centre-back Bakary Kone arrives after falling out-of-favour at Lyon. Two wingers, both 24-years-old and Spanish, Jony [Sporting Gijon] and Keko [Eibar] have joined the ranks at La Rosaleda.

Granada are under new ownership after the Pozzo family accepted a €37m offer from Chinese firm Link International Sports. New owner Jiang Lizhang stated that his target for the club is ‘European football within three years’.

The Pozzos took over the club when they were on the brink of administration and playing in the regionalised third tier in 2009, but two successive promotions were followed by five finishes between 15th and 17th in the top flight.

Lizhang initially targeted Jorge Sampaoli to replace the departing trainer Jose González, but soon turned his attention to Paco Jemez, the flamboyant Coach with a carefree attitude to defending, preferring to focus on high-pressing and possession, and possibly the least pragmatic tactician in Spain.

Despite signing a three-year deal at Los Carmenes, Jemez has been heavily linked to take over the Spain team following Vicente del Bosque’s departure. It has emerged that a release clause in his contract exists whereby such an approach could trigger his exit.

This is one aspect of the uncertainty surrounding the club with the threadbare nature of their current squad another concern. Striking trio Adalberto Penaranda, Isaac Success and Youssef El-Arabi have all departed and - at time of writing - nobody has arrived. The takeover initially brought great optimism to El Grana, but the next few weeks could be crucial in shaping their long-term future.

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