Gracias, Unai

Sevilla officially announced today that Unai Emery, fearless leader and winner of European trophies, will be leaving the club to become the head coach of PSG. Sevilla also shared that they’re negotiating with former Chile national team coach Jorge Sampaoli to replace him. A few thoughts:

  • Emery’s time here has been phenomenal. Unprecedented. He started January 2013–in mid-season–and went on to win his first of three Europa League titles. His league form hasn’t always been the best, but we had no seasons without a trophy under Emery. By that stat alone, Emery is in the conversation for best Sevilla coach of all time. Of course there were aspects of this team that needed to improve, for example less reliance on a single player, away form, and ability to sustain competition in both domestic and continental competitions. But the list of accomplishments is far longer than the shortcomings: he won more Europa Leagues than he coached full seasons. He successfully guided the team through the departure of not just a key goal scorer (Bacca) but also its beating heart (Rakitic) without skipping a beat, and found a way to make their replacements Gameiro and Banega equal–and even surpass–their contributions. The club is indebted to Unai, even if his replacement is excellent. Which brings us to…
  • Fantastic work by the club to announce the replacement at the same time Emery’s move became official. It’s only because Emery’s been so good that it seems like a long time ago, but Sevilla had been on a painful coaching carousel for several seasons when they hired Unai, and part of what made that process so destructive was that we’d fire one manager without securing his successor. (And at times when we did it wasn’t clear at all that we’d upgraded.) This summer has gone about as well as could be hoped; the transfer window has only been open a couple weeks and Sevilla has already made a couple strong signings, appears to be in the hunt for a couple more, and the most painful departure (Banega) has already happened. Of course, a last-minute sale of Gameiro (for example) could undo a lot of the work that’s been done, but the strong impression I get from the club’s actions is that we are looking to build a stronger, more formibable side rather than rebuild one. Apparently the club is still negotiating with Jorge, but all indications are that we’ve got our man, and I’m pretty excited. To wit:
  • Sampaoli is, admittedly, unproven, but I’m very excited to see what he makes of this Sevilla side. Arguably if Banega is leaving, this makes for a good time to get a new coach, or at least to try a system that doesn’t rely on our departing talisman. And while he’s never coached in Europe, he has certainly proven himself capable of building teams that play thrilling, winning soccer. Given the aforementioned aggressive, early signings this season, I’m optimistic that we’ll have less of the slow, painful start to the season than we’ve seen in the past.

What do you all think of the day’s news? Mostly feeling good? Bad?