Why Monchi snubbed Arsenal for a return to rudderless Sevilla

SEVILLE – If Roma miss out on Serie A’s top three for the first time in five years, Monchi will be apportioned most of the blame. Giallorossi owner James Pallotta accused the sporting director of lacking a plan B this season and therefore leaving the club hamstrung by injuries and the supposedly ineffectual coaching of Eusebio Di Francesco.

Monchi arrived in the Italian capital with acclaim for being an expert recruiter and logistical mastermind at football clubs. When Monchi left in March – a day after Di Francesco was sacked – his stock had taken a hit.

His reception upon his return to Andalusia, however, was at odds with his 22-month Roma stint. His exalted status at Sevilla was already unique for a club director, and his popularity was further elevated by him snubbing Arsenal in favor of a second term at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

“I can tell you that Monchi, to me as a journalist (and) to a lot of fans in Seville, is the most important person in Sevilla FC history,” Ignacio Caceres Dastis of ElDesmarque told theScore. “He’s been in all the trophies, he’s been in all the seasons, he’s got the team from the second division to European finals and trophies. He’s helped the club grow. He’s a legend.”

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Without Monchi, Sevilla were true to their own reputation by prospering in cup competitions. The five-time Europa League winners reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time in their history last season and competed in the 2018 Copa del Rey final.

But their seventh-placed finish in La Liga was evidence that all was not well behind the scenes.

“There was no chief. It was a bit of a mess with signings,” Caceres said. “All the pressure that came from the media and fans, I think Sevilla was really sensitive to this and acted really quickly without reflection … There was no plan if things went wrong.”

Monchi won nine major trophies during his first 17-year stint as sporting director, overseeing nine managers and sacking five of them. In the brief time that Monchi was in Rome, Sevilla fired four managers.

In terms of transfer activity post-Monchi, bringing back Ever Banega and Jesus Navas were rather obvious deals to pursue. The only purchase somewhat reminiscent of Monchi’s business was a move for Simon Kjaer but, at 30, it’s unlikely Sevilla will get any return on their €12.5-million investment. The current standout attackers for Sevilla, Wissam Ben Yedder and Pablo Sarabia, were both signed by Monchi and key in last season’s Champions League run.

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Sevilla now have a throwback look. Joaquin Caparros, the genial tactician who is, sadly, battling chronic leukemia, moved back into the dugout to clear the way for Monchi. The 63-year-old nurtured talent like Sergio Ramos, Dani Alves, Jose Antonio Reyes, and Julio Baptista while working under Monchi between 2000 and 2005, and is often credited with laying the groundwork for Sevilla’s continental successes.

Given Caparros’ health and age, he may be a stopgap hire. Nevertheless, Caceres believes promises were made to Monchi to coax him into returning to the Sanchez Pizjuan: he will be given the resources to tweak a squad that performed admirably amid a managerial merry-go-round and should be given the autonomy of his previous reign.

At Arsenal, meanwhile, there are budgetary concerns. Former Rojiblancos boss Emery wasn’t granted funds in the January transfer window, so instead sought loan deals that culminated in temporary terms for ex-Sevilla loanee Denis Suarez. With these restraints, Monchi couldn’t be confident of receiving the money needed to shape the north London outfit in his image.

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The organization of Arsenal is also perplexing: owner Stan Kroenke is regularly accused of neglecting the Gunners, chief executive Ivan Gazidis scampered off to an equivalent role at AC Milan in 2018, and Sven Mislintat lasted 14 months as head of recruitment before he exited in February. Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham are yet to convince in their roles as director of football and managing director, respectively.

Arsenal’s apparent power struggles wouldn’t give Monchi assurances that he would be able to pull the strings at the Emirates Stadium. At Sevilla, he already knows the job.

“Monchi used to be a goalkeeper here, Monchi has lived in the city for 30 years, Monchi understands the club, understands the mentality, understands the fans’ ambition, understands the whole thing. He’s the chief here,” Caceres explained.

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The respect Monchi demands at Sevilla will be rewarded with patience – a commodity that was lacking at Roma. Also, with European heavyweights looking to prey on Atletico Madrid’s best players, Real Madrid in a state of flux, and Barcelona more reliant on Lionel Messi than ever before, could this be an opportunity for La Liga’s also-rans to compete at the top?

“Many people outside of Seville have told me that I’ve made the wrong choice, that sequels are never good,” Monchi said when he was hired for the second time.

Monchi shouldn’t concern himself with outside noise. Juan Araujo and Jose Antonio Reyes enjoyed box-office returns, while Caparros, Navas, and Banega are currently boosting their reputations in their second comings with Los Rojiblancos.

Monchi’s own sequel could be a blockbuster.