An emotional Jesus Navas dedicated Sevilla’s record sixth Europa League success to his late former team-mates Antonio Puerta and Jose Antonio Reyes.
Julen Lopetegui’s side won a thrilling encounter against Inter 3-2 in Cologne, with a Luuk de Jong brace overturning Romelu Lukaku’s early penalty.
Navas’ superb cross set up De Jong’s equaliser but Inter concluded a riotous first half on level terms thanks to Diego Godin.
The decisive moment came 16 minutes from time when Diego Carlos, who had endured a torrid night at the hands of Lukaku and might have been sent off when he brought down the Belgium striker for his fifth-minute spot-kick, saw an audacious overhead kick deflect home off Inter’s number nine.
Navas previously won the trophy he lifted on Friday in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons before missing the three in a row under Unai Emery while claiming a Premier League title and two EFL Cups at Manchester City.
Wing-back Puerta collapsed on the field and died due to cardiac arrest in August 2008 having played alongside Navas in those earlier triumphs, while three-time winner Reyes was killed in car accident last year.
“This group deserves it, they overcome every day after the problems that existed,” the Spain international told Movistar.
“To be able to lift this title for Sevilla and for all those who are not here like my godfather, who has passed away, for Puerta, for Reyes. This group deserves the greatest.
“I want the Sevilla fans to feel proud of us, they deserve to get happy in the face of all the problems that there are.”
13 – Jesús Navas is appearing in his first UEFA Cup/Europa League final since 2007 for Sevilla against Espanyol; his 13-year gap between final appearances is the joint-longest in the competition’s history alongside Amedeo Carboni with Valencia (1991) and Roma (2004). Evergreen. pic.twitter.com/5NnpHzlZ3d
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 21, 2020
Navas returning home, now a dependable right-back where he was once a tearaway winger, to skipper Sevilla amounts to a heart-warming story.
However, the club great was keen to share the plaudits with his team-mates after playmaker Ever Banega’s final outing for the Andalusian outfit.
“We will all lift the trophy,” Navas added. “We are all captains.”
Banega, who will end a colourful stint in European football when he joins Saudi Arabian side Al-Shabab, paid tribute to Lopetegui – the coach who could celebrate the maiden triumph of his career in the dugout after a nightmare 2018 when he was sacked by both Spain and Real Madrid.
“It’s time to say goodbye as I deserve – I want to thank Lopetegui,” he said. “I recovered my best level with him.
“I remember when I lowered the level a bit, he left me out of the team and showed me that without work you can’t get anything.”
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