Hired as Sevilla coach in summer 2019, Julen Lopetegui’s first season ended in the club’s sixth UEFA Europa League triumph, the usually restrained 54-year-old close to tears as he celebrated with the trophy in Cologne.
However, the former Porto and Real Madrid boss is determinedly getting back to business as his side take on Bayern München in the UEFA Super Cup, and is adamant that – having forged their footballing style in adversity – Sevilla will not change for anyone.
On the Super Cup meeting with Bayern
Playing in a European Super Cup doesn’t happen every day and even less often against such a spectacular opponent like Bayern who won their domestic league, their domestic cup and the European Cup in a brilliant way. They are a great team with unbelievable strength in terms of individual players. They have a manager who deserves a lot of credit for the way he has managed the side and changed the team’s fortunes by giving it a strong identity in addition to a lot of focus on teamwork.
It’s a case of coming up against the best team in the world at the moment. We know that we don’t just want to roll over. We have a lot of respect and admiration for this team, but we are also a team who are very proud, ambitious and excited. We fully intend to approach the final with a desire to give a good showing of ourselves. It’s not going to be easy but that is what we’re obviously hoping for.
On winning the UEFA Europa League
When emotion takes over, reason goes out of the window. That’s just the way it is. When you look at the teams we beat to win it and to have done it in such unique circumstances, with the situation of which we’re all aware with the pandemic and playing games behind closed doors, all the effort the players had to put in and the teams we faced. It was a feeling of joy and you’re not always able to properly control how you express your emotions, but they were tears of joy.
There is no key aspect to winning a trophy. A team has to do many, many things well, and then make the right decisions in key moments of matches. If I had to choose one [significant factor], it would be the team’s mentality: the team’s mentality in tough situations, the team’s mentality in difficult moments, and the team’s ambition.
On Sevilla’s playing style
We had 15 new players [last] season. It could seem like a problem, but it could also be an opportunity, and we tried to make it the latter; an opportunity to quickly adapt ourselves to a philosophy. We have been a team that has conceded very few goals by being very attacking. [We are a] team that is constantly trying to find an opportunity to counterattack and, at the same time, is able to defend away from our area. We have taken risks, but we have been very committed to what needs to be done in order to take those risks.
It’s all about knowing the characteristics of what your opposition are ultimately looking to do in a game, but we have to display our strengths and not alter what makes us the team we are on account of the opposition.
On the UEFA Champions League
We will approach that in the same way we have done up until now and that is by going step by step. We’ll have to start training soon and we have had very little time to rest, but we are not going to complain, we’re going to work and quickly change our mindset in order to prepare for that Super Cup. We’ll have to prepare well and get used to the new players that come this year and try to communicate the same message to them as last season. We know we have to grow and evolve as a team; we can’t stop.