The forgotten story of almost champions Sevilla 2006-07

A lot can happen in a minute goes the aphorism. In Vijay Deenanath Chauhan style, 9 years, 4 months, 11 days ago, a lot happened in less than a minute. 18 seconds to be precise. Four braces from four strikers ensured that the two matches ended 2-2 leaving the two warring giants of Spain level on 73 points with just one more round of matches to go. The Castillan side were on top all thanks to the pulsating 3-3 draw in Catalonia which ensured they were ahead on head to head.

What few remember is that had the Rojiblancos of sunny Andalusia, who faced Mallorca in the Balearic archipelago, won the match they would have gone level with the Big Two of Spain on 73 points. This would have resulted in a three way tie and a rock, paper, scissors situation. Barcelona led Sevilla (3-1,1-2), Real Madrid led Barcelona (2-0,3-3) and Sevilla led Real Madrid (2-1,2-3) on head to head. The next differentiator was goal difference which would have given the advantage to the Blaugrana but alas Los Nervionenses could manage only a goalless draw virtually ending their hopes of a first league title in 61 years.

A free-flowing side built around their right back and managed by Juande Ramos, the squad was put together by their director Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo aka Monchi. The core of side: Alves (€500,000), Jesus Navas (cantera),  Antonio Puerta (cantera), Javi Navarro (free), Christian Poulsen (free), Renato (free), Andres Palop (free), Julien Escude (€1,500,000), Dragutinovic (€2,100,000), Adriano Correa (€2,100,000), Luis Fabiano (€1,200,000) and Freddie Kanoute for an exceptionally profligate €6,500,000. Its makes Billy Beane look positively Florentinoesque.

Warning Shots Fired in Monaco

Sevilla qualified for the UEFA Super Cup by crushing Steve McClaren’s Middlesbrough 4-0 in Eindhoven. They faced their compatriots: Ronaldinho led Barcelona who had won their first Champions League/European Cup in 14 years. Dani Alves put in a powerful shift at right back by first stifling reigning European player of the year and combining powerfully with the pacy Jesus Navas as the Andalusians bulldozed the Catalans 3-0. Los Cules were unable to match the pace and the intensity of Sevilla and surrendered meekly.

Tactics & Formation

434px-barcelona_vs_sevilla_2006-08-25-svg
Sevilla’s Formation in the UEFA Super Cup

From what I can remember and watching a few highlights, I think Sevilla played a classic 4-4-2 with heavy emphasis on wing play. They had the classical target man in Kanoute and Fabiano as his smaller partner. Speedy quicksilver wingers in Jesus Navas & Adriano and the centre of the pitch anchored by Poulsen and Renato with the Brazilian having the creative duties. Undoubtedly, the engine of the side was Dani Alves from right full back position. Alves provided 21 assists, exactly as many as the next 3 providers (Navas(8), Fabiano(7) & Kerzhakov(6)) put together, and 7 goals! All from right back. Not for nothing did Sid Lowe call him a footballing Sonic the Hedgehog.

The Season

Sevilla went on to win their first 5 matches in all competitions and sat on top of La Liga with 3 wins out of 3. They lost their first two big away matches at the Calderon & Camp Nou. The 3-1 loss to Barcelona left them at 4th place after 6 rounds. This would be the last time they would stay outside the top 3. Of their next 10 matches in the league before the winter break Los Rojiblancos won 8, lost 1 and drew 1 including big wins over Real Madrid and Valencia at home to stay on top at the winter break. Progress on the European front also went with few hassles as Sevilla finished 2nd to AZ in their group and qualified for the round of 32 in the UEFA Cup.

They went through a slump post the winter break winning just 2 out of 8 matches and drew 4 before Barcelona’s visit to Sanchez Pizjuan. Sevilla won a tempestuous affair that saw 3 red cards & 4 further yellow cards 2-1 after Ronaldinho gave a 13th minute lead to the Catalans. Dani Alves picked up the pieces and scored the winner himself in the 60th minute and the Rojiblancos went to the summit of La Liga for the 8th time in the season. Alas that would be the last time Sevilla would be at the top.

In the midst of this league slump progress in the Copa Del Rey and UEFA Cup went with little trouble. Barring the Seville Derby quarterfinal of the Copa Del Rey in which the 2nd leg had to be suspended and continued in Getafe due to crowd trouble, Los Rojiblancos comfortably made the final and Kanoute’s 11th minute goal vs Getafe in Santiago Bernabeu gave Sevilla their 4th Copa Del Rey title.

The UEFA Cup saw Sevilla a huge scare in the round of 16 against Shakhtar Donetsk. A 2-2 draw in Seville gave a huge advantage to the Ukrainians and it looked as though Elano’s 83rd minute goal would see them through to the quarterfinals but goalkeeper Andres Palop’s 94th minute equalizer saw the match go to extra time in which Chevanton scored the winner. After beating the Spurs & fellow Spaniards Osasuna, Sevilla successfully defended their UEFA Cup on penalties after a 2-2 draw in Hampden Park.

Sevilla still had an outside chance of winning the league on Jornada 38. Beat El Submarino Amarillo and the Big Two lose, Sevilla would be Campeones after 61 years. Sevilla could not keep their end of the bargain and lost to Villarreal 0-1. Madrid & Barcelona won their final matches that saw Los Merengues crowned Campeones for the 30th time. Just like Il Fenomeno had led them to the title over Real Sociedad 4 years ago, Ruud Van Nistelrooy powered Madrid over the line when it seemed they were dead and buried for most of the season.

Despite the two losses at home in the league, the Sanchez Pizjuan was a fortress where all the big sides were felled. They picked up 47 out of the maximum 57 points which was as much as Barcelona and 7 more than eventual champions Real Madrid. Their away form in the league would be their undoing. The won only 6 matches and lost 7 with the 0-1 loss to eventual bottom placed side Gimnastic being the most devastating of them all. Their 24 points away from home was just 3 more than relegated Celta Vigo.

Aftermath

As with any big fish in a small pond, Alves was soon snapped up by Barcelona and Juande Ramos swapped Sanchez Pizjuan for White Hart Lane but Monchi’s wizardry of the transfer market ensured that Sevilla continued to remain competitive after losing Keita, Fabiano, Kanoute, Alves, Rakitic, Reyes, Jesus Navas et al over the years, culminating in a hattrick of UEFA Europa League titles in the last 3 seasons but never did Los Nervionenses come close to the elusive La Liga title in that Dani Alves led season 9 years, 4 months & 11 days ago.

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