Sevilla fans would have been relieved to see the back of last season after a tumultuous campaign that saw a premature exit from the Europa League, a mid-season managerial exit, a disappointing ninth-place finish and a prison sentence for the club’s President.
Finishing three points ahead of city rivals Real Betis was a rare positive in a forgettable season that marked the end of an era with the departure of the legendary Frederic Kanoute from the Sanchez Pizjuan,
Even Kanoute’s farewell season in Spain after seven years at Sevilla was something of an anti-climax, with the Malian striker plagued by injury and scoring just four goals in 26 games as his contract drew to a close.
Kanoute, who has joined Chinese club Beijing Guoan, netted 135 times in 290 appearances for the Andalusians, helping them to two UEFA Cups, one UEFA Super Cup, two Copas del Rey and a Spanish Supercopa.
Kanoute’s departure has created the perfect opportunity for Alvaro Negredo to take centre stage. The Spanish international’s 14 goals from 28 starts last season sounds respectable, but he regularly flattered to deceive in front of goal and, by his own admission, needs to improve on some below-par displays in what was, for long spells, a poor Sevilla side.
Michel, who took over as Coach at Sevilla following the departure of the unpopular and unsuccessful Marcelino last February, brought some stability to the club after a run of poor results, while various boardroom incidents culminated in President Jose Maria del Nido receiving a seven-year prison sentence for embezzlement.
The former Real Madrid midfielder begins his first full season in charge unburdened by the distraction of European competition. Sevilla’s lowly finish in La Liga meant they missed out on a Europa League slot after last year’s competition saw them exit at the play-off stage, following a 3-2 aggregate defeat to German outfit Hannover 96.
Perhaps the most significant addition to Michel’s squad for 2012-13 is goalkeeper Diego Lopez, signed from relegated Villarreal to replace Javi Varas who has joined newly-promoted Celta Vigo.
In front of Lopez, who stands 1.96 metres tall, Michel has acted to strengthen his defence after Frenchman Julien Escude left for Turkish side Besiktas. Dutch international central defender Hedwiges Maduro has joined from Valencia, while Brazilian right-back Cicinho has arrived from Palmeiras.
Speaking ahead of his side’s pre-season clash with Deportivo La Coruna in the Antonio Puerta Trophy, Michel said he was confident he now had a squad capable of mounting a serious challenge.
“The results will tell if this squad is better or worse than the one we had last year, but it is definitely more competitive,” he told a Press conference. “Not just because of the players who have come and gone, but because I now have more choice about who can be on the field at any one time, and that’s good.”