Monchi directing his club's fairytale in Europe

Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo.
Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo.

SEVILLE (Spain) • There are few football clubs where the star is the sporting director, but Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, or "Monchi", has been the architect of Sevilla's most successful era by far.

Since taking over as sporting director in 2000, the former goalkeeper has guided the club from Spain's second division to five Europa League titles.

Moreover, he has done so while raking in hundreds of millions of euros as the likes of Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos and Ivan Rakitic headed for greener pastures and were replaced at a fraction of their costs.

"We are more a business now than a football club and on the field we have achieved incredible feats that we never dreamt of," the 48-year-old said.

For all of Sevilla's success in the Europa League, Europe's second tier competition, they have never reached the Champions League quarter-finals under Monchi's watch. That could change if they see off troubled English champions Leicester City in the last 16.

"There is a tremendous excitement, atmosphere and an ambition to take that long-awaited step into the best eight teams in the Champions League," he said. "It would be another step in the growth of the club."

FEEL-GOOD FACTOR

We have tried to make sure the person feels good so that the footballer can appear.

RAMON RODRIGUEZ VERDEJO, Sevilla sporting director, on how the Spanish club try to get the best out of their players.

He carried out a remarkable reconstruction job in pre-season. Paris Saint-Germain poached coach Unai Emery and key midfield cog Grzegorz Krychowiak, while last season's top scorer Kevin Gameiro joined Atletico Madrid.

Monchi himself had doubts that he build another successful squad. Yet the club refused to accept his resignation and so he set about bringing in Argentinian coach Jorge Sampaoli and assembling a different team to the one required by Emery.

"It was the most difficult (summer) for many reasons," he said. "A new coach means a new plan. It put our department to the test."

Eleven new players were signed, but it was the last of them - Manchester City loanee Samir Nasri - who has made the biggest impact.

"We thought that if Nasri is happy, he won't have forgotten how to play football. We have tried to make sure the person feels good so that the footballer can appear," he said.

All good things must come to an end, though, and there is a growing sense that this season may be Monchi's last at Sevilla.

Serie A giants Roma look most likely to inherit his magic touch in the transfer market, as he believes the Premier League's cash-rich nature would not give him the autonomy he craves.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Monchi directing his club's fairytale in Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe