Reading over the wrap-up of last year’s predictions and then the comments in this week’s Barca defeat autopsy, I was struck by how much of a role timing plays in Sevilla’s transfer season, and in the following year’s outcome on the field. Let’s consider each post:
When we looked at Sevilla last year and considered the squad’s chances of success, everyone was feeling…pretty optimistic. At the time of the predictions we already knew the team had a very tough draw in the Champion’s League, and yet most people predicted we’d see our heroes advance to at least the second round. This was…not the case. Similarly, we saw the team doing fairly well in the league as well; in general, we felt good about the team and our predictions reflected that. Now obviously to some extent this is a simple issue of supporters being supporters: who wants to come to site full of fellow fans and basically shout “we’re all doomed!”? OK, maybe some of us do! But mostly people do not want to do that. We want to believe, as the season begins, that we are in store for something special.
But also…I mean, we weren’t wrong? If you looked at last year’s roster and saw a team capable of navigating a group with Manchester City and Juventus–of conceivably beating them or just about any other side on its day, you were exactly right, with one minor detail: you were off by about 6–7 months. No shame in that, you were just a little too clairvoyant, and (presumably) you were projecting the team you knew Sevilla would be by May into September. (You also perhaps thought Sevilla would be able to win away from home from time to time…hey, no soothsayer’s perfect.)
Which leads me to what I thought was some really great discussion after the Barca game. At this moment in the nascent 16–17 season, there are plenty of concerns all over the pitch: specific players underperforming in some cases, and a lack sense of cohesion or identity in entire parts of the field more generally. These are big problems! But they are also not particularly surprising problems. Sevilla has made a habit of identifying the top 2 or 3 of their most important players…and then selling 2 or 3 of them every summer. We are in a constant state of rebuilding in August, and this has often, especially in recent years, given us a disadvantage that can at times cause some irreparable damage to our prospects by December or so. That the team generally comes together is one reason we do so well in the latter half of cup competitions, where the slate is wiped clean after every tie as long as you advance. And this year is of course an even harder reset than usual: I’m not sure who among Emery, Krycho, Gameiro, Banega, and Coke you wouldn’t call a top 5 most important piece of last year’s success, and they’re all gone. Given that exodus, it was probably the best possible time to try to completely reimagine the team’s identity and approach, but that doesn’t mean this transition will be easy. Monchi’s near-departure and Sampaoli’s nearly convincing declaration of commitment to the team are basically the cherry on top of the shit sundae that was our summer.
So having said all of that, I was thinking as I reflected on our summer that the most important single piece of information isn’t the amount we sold our players for, or the average price of players we bought, or how much income we netted, or how many players we bought for than 10 million (which I assume is a record for a single season). It’s probably August 3. Or maybe July 30th; those are the dates we sold Coke and Gameiro respectively, meaning the last of the cornerstone players (do we have any cornerstone players left to sell?) were still leaving with less than a month of transfer season to go. Compare that to last year, when Bacca, Navarro, and M’Bia were all headed out the door by July 1; ditto the year before, when Rakitic was also on his way by July 1. In a way you could argue that it’s how early the new signings have come in that matters most, but I think the departure of a Gameiro or a Banega means a lot more to how a team operates than the arrival of a player who may well end up sitting on the bench all season long.
Anyway. Having said all of that, here are a few of those other data points I just told you aren’t as important (thanks of course to the indispensable transfermarkt for the data): We brought in 84m in sales, and spent 55.3m on replacements, for a net profit of about 29m (these are conversions from the pound to euro, which is a bit like trying to measure a child’s height while she jumps on a trampoline (#brexit), but let’s just work in rough terms shall we?). Also interesting: the average age of departing players is 28.6 years, and arrivals are 24.9.
Anyway, I’m intentionally talking about our transfer season in broad terms and avoiding specifics, because for these new guys it’s far too soon, after two competitive matches, to say who’s going to be excellent and who’s going to be a waste (although I invite you all to speculate in the comments!). The only concrete things I think that can be said from a Sevilla summer of sales is how much the absences will be felt. They will be felt, guys. A lot. We will miss them all very much. I suspect now through October at least will mostly feel like very long months, with frustrating results (but I think also really exciting action on the field, which isn’t nothing). And then, with any luck, this team will find its feet and we’ll start to see something really special building.