Sevilla appoint Vincenzo Montella as their new head coach

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 28 December 2017, 18:36

It seemed a harsh decision when La Liga side Sevilla fired their Coach Eduardo Berizzo just one week after he had returned to work following cancer surgery. Yet in football time waits for no man, and – without a league win since December 2nd – club executives left no room for sentiment when they removed the Argentine boss from his position.

Now in fifth place, Los Rojiblancos will want to avoid losing pace with the rest of the pack. The club have revealed that former AC Milan boss Vincenzo Montella is set to become their new manager after reaching an initial agreement.

The man nicknamed L’aeroplanino (little aeroplane) is said to have been offered a contract with the Spanish side until June 2019, and is set to work alongside Italian assistant Enzo Maresca. On the surface it looks to be a smart – if a little unexpected – move by Sevilla, but with no experience of managing in Spain, it begs the question of what Montella can bring to the role.

Firstly, fans of the Spanish side needn’t panic by his record with Milan. The Coach proved his capabilities in his first year with the Rossoneri, achieving a Supercoppa Italiana win and a sorely-missed qualification to Europe for the fallen giants that were severely lacking in recent silverware. He did so with a young squad and a budget of almost zero, making the most of some difficult circumstances as former president Silvio Berlusconi grappled with a takeover from Chinese investors.

These investors came in and changed his brief entirely, investing large amounts of money in a whole new team last summer. Of course, this idea failed to work in the way they had hoped and – amongst a myriad of other problems brought about by the controversial takeover – Montella was doomed to failure. Poor results saw the boss fired at the end of November, but a look back at his previous record gives a better indication of his capabilities.

It was back in 2012 that the former Italian international was hired by Fiorentina. The club were going through a period of transition, a then inexperienced Montella was brought in to oversee the changes. No less than 17 members of the squad had arrived that summer – many of them from Spain or Spanish-speaking countries – but the Coach did not let this hold him back.

In fact, it was quite the opposite, and the Viola suddenly had a new and cohesive unit that played exciting and attacking football. The year before the Tuscan side had languished in 13th place, but a change of philosophy saw them finished 4th in Montella’s very first season in charge, and there was indeed more to come.

The next two years would see his side finish in fourth on both occasions, and would also reach the Coppa Italia final in 2013/14 and the Europa League semi-final in 2014/15. His system switched between 4-3-3 and 3-5-2, with wingers such as Joaquin and Juan Cuadrado deployed to devastating effect. A dispute with the club’s owners over a lack of funding to push the team on to further success saw his reign end in summer 2015, the Viola supporters bitterly disappointed to see him leave.

“We give our best when we’re having fun with football. This team deserves everything it is getting right now with its performances and results. We earned all this,” said the Italian boss shortly before that Europa League semi. “I am truly, profoundly proud to train these players, even as people. It is the first time I have found a group of people who all dedicate themselves in the best way to our working philosophy.”

There, he Coached a team with a mixture of youth and experience to play a more Spanish style, his preference for passing always routed through dynamic midfielder Borja Valero, who arrived with the boss from Villarreal in 2012. His strength, as indicated in the quote above, was the ability to bring the best from his players, creating a strong sense of team spirit. This approach would seem to fit with Sevilla’s ethos, and his experience in Europe is certainly a bonus.

There will certainly be doubts though, as to whether he can transfer these capabilities to a different league, one where opponents will be wiser to his style of play. Indeed, Fiorentina were soundly beaten by Sevilla in that 2015 semi-final as his squad were unable to cope with their slick and quick passing game.

For Montella, this opportunity might just be his chance to prove the failures at Milan were not all his fault, and that he does have the credentials to bring success to another European League. Indeed, Sevilla’s 25 man squad contains just five players over the age of 30, an ideal scenario for a man whose strengths lie in uniting a team of younger players.

In order for this to happen, we will need to see the relaxed and smiling Montella that stood on the touchline at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, not the man who looked constantly strained on the San Siro sidelines.

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