Jose Luis Mendilibar on Europa League run – ‘I thought, what am I doing in front of 70,000 people?’

Sevilla are set to take on Juventus this Thursday in what will be yet another semi-final in the Europa League, but it will be a first for their manager. Jose Luis Mendilibar has turned Sevilla’s season around in the space of a month, moving them away from the relegation battle in La Liga, and negotiating Los Nervionenses past Manchester United. Mendilibar has opened up on his personall experience of their European run, and how he has changed things at Sevilla.

In a recent interview with, Mendilibar explained that he had made a conscious effort to make things more simple for his players. It is a point that he has laboured in the media previously and takes on even more significance given the comments of the squad under previous manager Jorge Sampaoli, often remarking that they were struggling to understand the Argentine’s system.

“I’ve always said that I like simple things. I try not to make things too complicated for the players. I try to make the players feel comfortable, and from there, we can start to improve. The results have definitely helped us from the beginning. Even when we haven’t played so well, we’ve had matches where we’ve been able to get the win. Sometimes, it’s the results that make you believe in what you’re doing. That was the situation for us, especially at the beginning.”

Even so, he rejected the idea of simplying his methods and his system too much.

“People paint me as a 4-4-2 coach, a coach who likes a direct style of play, who plays a lot in the opposition box, but I want intelligent players. I want players who know how to play in between the opposition when defending, not one on one. I don’t like duels. I like to anticipate duels. I don’t want them to run just for the sake of running. I prefer players who appear all of a sudden and win the ball without having to make a big effort.”

Harking back to the tie against Manchester United, Mendilibar admitted that he himself had his doubts in the first half at Old Trafford. Sevilla were under pressure early and looked as if they would struggle to remain in the tie thereafter.

“They’re not just any team. It’s not only the fact that it was my first experience in European competition, it’s also who we faced. The truth is, when we were 2-0 down in the first 20 minutes of the first leg, I was thinking, ‘What am I doing, standing here in front of 70,000 people? We are losing 2-0.’ It seemed like they were going to score four goals, and I couldn’t say anything because the players couldn’t hear me at all due to the noise. The truth is that this makes me calm.”

If Mendilibar and Sevilla can find a way past Juventus, then the Basque coach would qualify it as his best achievement yet.

“[Reaching the final] would be the greatest thing I’ve ever done in football. I’ve done great things at other teams, but nothing bigger than this. For this club, a European final would mean continuing what they have been doing in the last few years. They reach the final almost every year, and when they reach it they normally win.”

Mendilibar worked miracles with Eibar for six years in La Liga, keeping the smallest team and the smallest budget in the division. Many in Spain feel that this opportunity is just rewards for his good work, and winning the Europa League would crown his long managerial career.

Tags Europa League Jose Luis Mendilibar Juventus Sevilla
La Liga - Club News