Unai Emery will not be forgotten at Sevilla, but the club are set to gain a true identity with the appointment of Jorge Sampaoli.
Emery orchestrated an unprecedented trio of consecutive Europa League titles at the helm in Andalusia, firmly cementing his place in the club’s history.
His continental success has seemingly convinced Paris Saint-Germain he is the man to help break their Champions League hoodoo – Laurent Blanc’s inability to progress beyond the quarter-finals costing him his job at the Parc des Princes.
Sevilla may have lost one of their most successful coaches in modern times, but Sampaoli brings something new and exciting for the Liga side, taking the edge off Emery’s departure.
After a number of nomadic years coaching in the Argentine doldrums, as well as in Peru and Ecuador, Sampaoli gained recognition at Universidad de Chile.
The Argentinian instilled a dynamic, high-pressing and attacking brand of football that made the Chilean side an unstoppable force in South America.
Under the guidance of the masterful Sampaoli, Universidad de Chile were capable of switching seamlessly between a three-man defence and a back four as they won a trio of trophies in 2011.
After blowing away the competition en route to winning the Copa Sudamericana that year, Sampaoli’s key players attracted the interest of foreign suitors and his time at the club came to an end less than a year later.
Sampaoli would remain at the Estadio Nacional, however, this time as Chile head coach.
He replaced the unsuccessful Claudio Borghi as the Chilean Football Association (ANFP) sought a return to the exhilarating style of football they became synonymous with under Marcelo Bielsa.
Sampaoli, just as passionate and obsessive as his compatriot, is a self-professed Bielsa disciple, though he places a greater emphasis on possession.
He installed his version of the Bielsan tactics and game-plan, minus only the 3-3-1-3 formation that garnered so much attention at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Sampaoli ensured Chile impressed again in Brazil four years later, guiding La Roja through a group including defending champions Spain and Netherlands before exiting on penalties to the hosts at the last-16 stage.
There was no such disappointment in the Copa America on home soil one year later, though.
Sampaoli led Chile to the first senior international title in their history when they overcame Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a penalty shootout in the final.
Controversy surrounding Arturo Vidal’s car crash while under the influence of alcohol threatened to derail their challenge near the start, but the Argentinian dealt with the situation decisively, refusing to bow to pressure to kick the midfielder out of the squad.
The Bayern Munich man was understandably elated to have been allowed to stay on as history was made, labelling Sampaoli one of the best in the business.
“Sampaoli is one of the best coaches in the world for how he sees football, also studying it like [Pep] Guardiola,” Vidal told CNN. “I’m glad to have lived those beautiful moments with Sampaoli because we achieved something unprecedented in Chile – being champions.”
Sampaoli subsequently earned a nomination for the FIFA Coach of the Year award but departed his position in acrimonious circumstances in January after a corruption scandal involving former ANFP president Sergio Jadue – who has since received a lifetime ban from football by FIFA – resulted in Sampaoli coming under close scrutiny.
Chelsea were linked with a swoop as they hunted for a replacement for Jose Mourinho, but a move never materialised and Sampaoli claimed the language barrier cost him the chance to take charge at Stamford Bridge.
There will be no such issues at Sevilla, who have managed to snare a coach considered on a similar footing to La Liga and Champions League winners Guardiola and Luis Enrique.
And in Andalusia, where trophies are not necessarily an immediate requirement or expectation, Sampaoli will be given time to implement his ideas; a high defensive line with centre-backs who are comfortable in possession and attacking full-backs, midfielders who recycle the ball quickly and effectively while closing opponents diligently, and a playmaker capable of pulling the strings behind the attack.
Sevilla are not just taking on Sampaoli, they are taking on a new philosophy.
With the new coach’s clearly defined ideas of how football should be played and what he expects from each individual on the pitch, the combination with Monchi, the sporting director who has played a key role in Sevilla’s success with a sensational recruitment strategy, is mouth-watering.
If the pair can strike up a positive relationship, such symbiosis could push the club to new heights both domestically and abroad.
Sevilla may have lost the iconic Emery, but they are set to gain much more with Sampaoli – a new identity that could redefine the club.
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