Del Nido’s ignominious Sevilla exit

Jose Maria del Nido’s obligatory resignation from the Sevilla presidency has brought to an end the reign of one of the most influential figures in the club’s, and possibly Spanish football’s, history. Originally sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison in December 2011, having been accused of sending fake invoices for legal bills totalling €6.7m to Marbella city hall between 1999 and 2003, his appeal against the decision was last week rejected by the Supreme Court, which ruled that seven years of the original sentence must remain.

Del Nido, 56, was born into a family that has always had links with Sevilla – his father had been Vice-President at the Sanchez Pizjuan in 1971 – and in later years he declared it was his destiny to become President of the Andalusian outfit. A lawyer by profession, he first joined the board in October 1986 and acceded to the presidency in May 2002 after buying a controlling interest in Los Nervionenses.

At that time Del Nido was based in Marbella working alongside Jesus Gil, then President of Atletico Madrid and a man for whom he had a great regard. An often controversial figure, Gil had just been briefly imprisoned and forced to stand down as mayor of the municipality, whilst also being banned from holding public office for 28 years, although Del Nido denied at his 2011 trial that he was once one of his close confidantes.

Although Sevilla had economic problems with debts of around €40m when he took charge, Del Nido appealed for calm, telling fans that the money owed was ‘peanuts’ and he would immediately set about reducing it. He was true to his word, although it took the sale of a number of top players over the following three years to achieve a measure of financial sanity. Jose Antonio Reyes for €30m, Julio Baptista for €20m and Sergio Ramos for €26m were all offloaded, yet it did not have a detrimental effect on the team, which subsequently enjoyed the best period in its history.

In May 2006, under Juande Ramos, Sevilla beat Middlesbrough 4-0 in Eindhoven to win the UEFA Cup, after which Del Nido told reporters: “I’m going to be the best President in the club’s history.” As things turned out, it was to be no idle boast. Just three months later Barcelona were defeated 3-0 as the European Super Cup was added to the trophy cabinet, while the next four years saw another UEFA Cup, two Copa del Reys and a Supercopa de Espana acquired.

Outspoken, brash, confident, Del Nido also appeared to have the Midas touch – he even won €300,000 on the Spanish Christmas Lottery – and Don Balon named him number 21 of the most influential people in Spain’s football history for work that included demanding an equal distribution of La Liga’s television rights.

However, lurking in the background was his dealings whilst in office on the Costa del Sol, where in 2004 he was alleged to have been involved in falsifying documents, insider trading and breach of trust alongside Julian Munoz, another former mayor. Two years later the so-called ‘Caso Minutas’, for which he was eventually convicted, reared its head and, although the wheels of justice took nine years to come to a conclusion, it has proven the end of his love affair with Sevilla.

“The day has arrived that I had least hoped for. I leave with regret, with deep sadness. If I had known what was going to happen then I would have resigned before now. I consider myself innocent of the crimes I have been convicted of,” a clearly emotional Del Nido told reporters on stepping down.

Even so, a small section of fans maintained they were glad to see his departure, in particular the club’s most vociferous group the Biris Norte, with whom he had had a series of high-profile disagreements. A statement released by the group insisted, despite the trophies won under his mandate, that Del Nido was a criminal who had been the most dishonourable President in Sevilla’s history. It claimed the embezzlement of public funds of which he had been a part had deprived schools, local businesses and the unemployed of money.

Whatever the politics, what cannot be denied is that Del Nido turned around a club in freefall with mounting debt into one that became a powerhouse in European football during the first decade of the 21st century. Ultimately, it was his business away from football that has deprived him of perhaps the thing in life he treasured the most – Sevilla Football Club.