Ivan Rakitic couldn’t help but laugh. Chasing down a soft backpass, keeper Dani Aranzubia’s hurried clearance cannoned off the Croatian international and into the empty net. Coming in the final 10 minutes and adding to Alvaro Negredo’s earlier tap in, the lucky goal guaranteed the three points would be heading south to Andalucia.
While Sevilla Coach Michel was somewhat less buoyant than Rakitic after the game – despite the victory – he had nonetheless seen an excellent response from his side. Perhaps they hadn’t quite found the adrenaline, as he himself had put it, that inspired them to defeat Real Madrid in the previous round, but the Galicians hadn’t lost at home in over a year. Deportivo lost that particular record, while Sevilla continued their unbeaten start to the campaign having navigated the tough away trip to La Coruna.
The win steered Sevilla into the Champions League qualification positions, along with Malaga and Mallorca behind Barcelona. While the season is still in its infancy, just five games in, Michel’s men have made an impressive start, not least with the 1-0 home win over Real Madrid. And with one of the club’s most successful periods in its history still fresh in the memory, optimism has quickly built up at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
Yet in 2007, when Sevilla were riding the crest of the wave, their fortune was at the opposite end of the spectrum to Michel’s.
Sevilla were third, just five points off Real Madrid and Barcelona, who ended the 2006-07 season level. Having pushed the Big Two all the way in the League, Sevilla also won a Cup double, taking the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Cup. The continental prize was their second consecutive win in the competition, itself a historical achievement.
With an exciting attacking brand of football, Sevilla were the best-placed team to challenge the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly. The Monchi Miracle was well under way, the club reaping the benefits from the scouting network set up by sporting director which brought in the likes of Julio Baptista, Dani Alves, Adriano and Seydou Keita, and then sold the players for astronomical fees on the back of top class performances at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
Things for Jose Miguel Gonzalez were not going quite the same way. Michel had taken on the responsibility of coaching Real Madrid Castilla as well as overseeing the club’s youth system for the 2006-07 season. With a squad including Juan Mata, Borja Valero, Esteban Granero, Alvaro Negredo, Javi Garcia, Dani Parejo and his son Adrian, the Real Madrid legendary winger was unable to prevent the reserve side Castilla being relegated to the third tier.
Just as Sevilla were taking off, so Michel’s coaching career appeared to be running aground. Yet a move across the city quickly changed that. Saving Getafe from relegation, he stayed on for two more years guiding the team to the club’s best ever League position of sixth. A less spectacular second season led to the club to deciding not to renew his contract.
In the meantime, Sevilla’s rise was halted. The tragic passing away of defender Antonio Puerta shook the club, as it did the sport, early in the 2007-08 season. Coach Juande Ramos soon moved on. There was the 2010 Copa del Rey, but the proximity to the top two was gone. From five points off the pace in 2007, last term they were ninth and 50 points behind the top spot.
Having halted the team’s freefall after replacing Marcelino at the club in February, Michel’s task for this campaign is to deliver a vast improvement on the previous season’s League performance. Despite the departure of Freddie Kanoute, the arrival of Cicinho, Alberto Botia and Hedwiges Maduro, along with the likes of key players Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo remaining, ought to offer Michel enough material with which to see him build a side that ends above last season’s position of ninth. Next weekend, when Barcelona visit the Sanchez Pizjuan, offers the perfect opportunity to gauge whether he can afford to be even more ambitious.