COMMENT: The Rojiblancos boss stands on the verge of securing back-to-back Europa League victories but has been linked with a move to Italy as an alternative to Carlo Ancelotti
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent
Sevilla are one of only two teams to have successfully defended the Europa League in any of its various guises, but on Wednesday they could repeat their historic feat – last achieved in 2006 and 2007 – with another back-to-back success.
Should they do what no other club has ever done and retain the trophy for a second time, they will notch up a record that might never be matched. Given Uefa’s decision to extend an invitation to the Champions League for the Europa League holders, back-to-back wins will become even more unlikely in the future.
It would be quite a legacy for Unai Emery to leave behind, but Sevilla supporters will be hoping it does not prove the 43-year-old’s final act with the club. Emery is in the coaching shop window and the clash with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in Warsaw could be a telling moment, with AC Milan leading the race to take him away from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan after two successful seasons.
After arriving on the back of a short-lived spell in charge of Spartak Moscow, Emery has picked up where he left off with Valencia in the Spanish Primera Division. The last three of his four seasons at the Mestalla ended with third-place finishes and Champions League football. In Seville, he has dragged the club to fifth spot in successive campaigns and stands on the verge of leading them to a magnificent European double.
It is easy to see, then, why Emery is being courted by Milan and has also been linked with the vacant Real Madrid job by some Spanish news outlets. Madrid have dismissed Carlo Ancelotti this week and while the Italian has claimed he will take a year off to overcome a health issue, he is thought to remain a candidate at San Siro himself. Club president Silvio Berlusconi has made contact with the 55-year-old and is optimistic.
“We are in contact with Ancelotti but we have prepared four alternatives: one abroad, the others in Italy,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “We hope he’ll come back to Milan,” he later added in a radio interview, but there could be another twist depending on the current leadership tussle at the club.
Emery’s chances of being selected to lead the Rossoneri could well depend on their potential takeover by Thai entrepreneur Bee Taechaubol. Sevilla’s 3-0 win over Fiorentina in the Europa League semi-final was attended by Nelio Lucas, the chief executive of Doyen Sports, who is a friend of Mr Bee and is expected to act as a football advisor in the event the tycoon can complete his anticipated purchase of a significant share in the club.
Lucas is believed to be a big fan of Emery, and by extension the Spaniard will be held in high regard in the projected corridors of power of the new Milan. There have even been reports in Italy claiming Emery has already signed a pre-contract agreement.
While the situation may be cloudy, one thing which is clear is the effect another Europa League triumph would have on Emery’s stock. Sevilla are favourites to take home the trophy, and the coach himself has spoken of the club’s affinity with the competition.
“We love this competition,” he said after victory over Fiorentina. “Now we must enjoy our success and think about the final.” Juande Ramos – who has coached both Dnipro and Sevilla – told Goal that “the Europa League fits the team and the city like a ring on a finger”.
But all Sevillanos are more than aware that Emery will not be wedded to their club forever, and if Milan step in there could be a parting of the ways very soon regardless of the result at the Stadion Narodowy.
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