Sevilla manager Jose Luis Mendilibar on praise – “I feel like a d***head”

Sevilla are just two days away from their seventh Europa League final, and there is plenty of optimism that they will be bringing home a seventh trophy with them. On the benches, its is set to be a fascinating battle, with Jose Luis Mendilibar going into his first and Roma manager looking to keep up his own 100% record in European finals. Mendilibar is not getting ahead of himself though.

The experienced Basque coach took over in late March after Jorge Sampaoli took over, and has revitalised the team entirely. Not only has he steered them away from the relegation battle as instructed, but taken to the final in Budapest. He admits to Relevo that things were not good when he took over.

“And it’s the truth. That does not mean that they are a good team, they are good footballers. It is true that they were not doing well. The situation was not good. They were not comfortable with how they trained and how they played and in that sense it was easier for us. I don’t know if we gave them normality, simplicity, ease… Then the results helped us. Playing so many games in such a short time helped us that almost everyone will play and feel integrated.”

It has put the spotlight on Mendilibar in a way he has never experienced until now. While he did have a brief unsuccessful spell with Athletic Club in the mid-2000s, Mendilibar has spent most of the 21st century working with more humble sides at the bottom of La Liga or top of Segunda. In particular, his run of keeping Eibar in La Liga for five seasons was historic.

How does he feel now that he has been getting far more credit?

“Like an d***head. I have been in the first division for 20 years and it seems that no one knew me and now, to be in Sevilla and doing what we are doing… What I did in Eibar is much the same as what I am doing in Sevilla. What happens is that you live on opulence and you’re not living in the depths. I don’t understand it, I don’t understand it… I know we’re in a UEFA final and it’s very big for Sevilla, even if they’re used to it, but surviving five seasons with Eibar is as important as trying to qualify Sevilla for the top four or more.”

Mendilibar is well aware that things could change in an instant.

“Let’s see, this is how it is. We’re winning and we’re in the final… Photos here and photos there, but I also know that as soon as we lose two games, they’re going to sling insults at me from all sides. You and the fans too. That’s right. We forget everything quickly. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

While Sevilla’s own history in the Europa League is mythical, Mendilibar’s shock journey to a European final is of fairytrale proportions. Even if Mendilibar has a point that he should have received more attention earlier, it is certainly well-deserved now.

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