News : And then Monchi strikes – sport
José Castro, 63, was born in Utrera, a not that small town with around 50,000 inhabitants on the outskirts of Seville, and like everyone born there, he has a special relationship with the Paseo de Consolación there. The avenue leads almost across the whole place to a Catholic shrine, consecrated to the Virgin Mary in her capacity as comforter of the afflicted. “Those who live there actually go there every day,” says Castro, president of Sevilla FC since the end of 2013, in a video call, and even if that is not meant literally, so he doesn’t really stop by every day, it’s just there but visits that are branded in Castro.
For example? The one at the side of the former professional footballer Joaquín Caparrós in the summer of 2000. Seville had just been relegated to the second Spanish division, Castro was already in the presidium. “We had to shoulder a fortune of minus 8.8 billion pesetas,” says Castro, and because of that When the currency change was equivalent to 52 million euros, he had no choice but to accept the offer that Caparrós made him: to train Sevilla FC for free.
The employment contract was signed after visiting the virgin on a paper napkin in a bar, “emolumentos: cero”, it said, “Remuneration: zero”, says Castro, and the only reason he doesn’t smile about it is because he’ll never experience anything like that again want. Rather, he enjoys the idea of leading expeditions of FC Sevilla in the Champions League and – just for example – to be a guest at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday. After a 2: 3 home defeat from the first leg in the round of 16. But with the hope of reaching the next round.
It would open a new, grandiose page in the history of the club, which since those days of the Renaissance, most recently with José Castro as president, has won the Spanish Cup twice and, above all, the Europa League six times.
Monchi says he didn’t invent the system, German clubs also worked well. Envy of Dortmund’s Haaland? “Not at all.”
The fascinating history of Seville’s steady success is inextricably linked with the name of Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo alias Monchi, who was promoted from team manager to sports director in that year of crisis 2000 and then – with the exception of a nearly two-year trip to AS Roma, from 2017 to 2019 – stayed until today. Monchi had just finished his career as a goalkeeper and studied law to work as a lawyer, but when the club needed him he couldn’t and wouldn’t refuse. “It took me ten seconds to say yes, because one of my big weaknesses is not being able to say no,” says Monchi, also via video conference. “But after fifteen seconds I asked myself: yes-to-what-actually, damn it?” Then Monchi became the most exciting squad planner in Europe.
The 52-year-old embodies the dream of many clubs to discover unknown players, to sign them cheaply and to sell them dearly – in other words, to achieve the “extraordinary returns” on the transfer market that allow Sevilla to stretch their budget. But: he is not alone. Rather, Monchi commands a scouting department that identifies around 18,000 footballers around the world at the beginning of each season and then filters them until there are 200 players left in the last third of a season who could be of interest to Seville. Then Monchi strikes.
They don’t always have to be artists like the gifted Argentine international Papu Gómez, who was brought in from Atalanta Bergamo last winter. Sevilla recently replaced Karim Rekik at Hertha BSC – at a time when the Dutchman was no longer a regular. “We had known him for a long time, since his time with the U23s at Manchester City and Olympique Marseille. We were looking for a player with experience, who knows demanding leagues, plays both left center-back and left-back – and who can adapt quickly. Karim had exactly what he was looking for the profile – and also fit in economically with our plans, “says Monchi.
He doesn’t have the model exclusively: the Modus operandi of FC Sevilla can be compared well with the work of German “clubs like Hoffenheim, Leipzig or Dortmund”, whose scouts graze on the same claims. Dortmund “may have a little more money than we do. But I really appreciate the way Michael (Zorc) and Dortmund work”. Envy of Dortmund because of Erling Haaland? “Not at all.”
In Seville, Monchi enjoys blind trust. Mainly because players like the Brazilian Luis Fabiano triumphed who had failed twice in Europe before, or who were deported for failure in a team like Tottenham Hotspur, but had no season with less than 20 goals in Seville. Only: “Our philosophy has a sentimental price,” says Monchi. President Castro, for example, remembers the dismay with which the fans reacted to the fact that the home-grown José Antonio Reyes, who, like Castro, came from Utrera and had a fatal accident in 2019, went to FC for good money in the 2003/2004 season Arsenal was sold.
“Of course it would be nice if players like Bacca, Gameiro, Keita, Poulsen or Dani Alves could stay here forever and end their careers in Seville,” says Monchi. But that would stunt the club’s growth, and the sales would bring in money. “We’re trying to make up for this with titles.” For example and above all: through victories in the Europa League – most recently against Inter Milan 2020 in Cologne.
Monchi had the trophy tattooed on his wrist – following a promise he once made to his daughter. “The Europa League and us, that’s a romance,” says Monchi. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t feel comfortable in the Champions League, “we’re not in exile”. Only: He would not have this trophy stabbed, he says, “not even if we won it ten times in a row”. Because actually, he says, “I don’t like tattoos”.