Sevilla have done it again. Goals from Joaquin Correa and Franco Vazquez secured victory over Leganes on Wednesday booked their ticket to April’s Copa del Rey final – their second in third seasons. It is a club who have become accustomed to not only contesting semi-finals and finals but winning them. This year’s showpiece will be the club’s 17th final – including Spanish and European Super Cups – in a 12-year period. They may not have the financial muscle to wrestle a La Liga title away from the three established powers, but they have forged a reputation of success and prioritisation.
The record is even more remarkable in context: this is the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the greatest players to ever set foot on the pitch, both playing a starring role at rival clubs. Sevilla’s budget is a fraction of Barcelona and Real Madrid, it pales in comparison to Atletico Madrid’s too. Success for Los Rojiblancos should be Champions League qualification, but instead they have found it in cup competitions.
Their dominance of the Europa League is well known: securing five titles in the space of 11 seasons. In the same period, Barca won only three major European titles. No other club won more than two. Yes, it is true that the Europa League represents the continent’s ‘second tier’ of clubs but such prolonged success and dominance in a trophy is rare, bordering on unique. Other clubs, including many from England, dismissed the competition as ‘second rate’ and often rested players, prioritising league games instead.
Yet the policy of placing such importance upon cup competitions is sound in logic. Firstly, medals and trophies are the first thing players reflect on whilst calling time on their careers. Not fourth-placed finishes, not avoiding relegation. The only achievement greater than winning a cup competition is winning the league. It breeds success, creates a winning mentality around the club, giving everyone involved with the club with cherished memories which will last forever.
There is an acceptance at Sevilla and similarly-sized clubs that a league title is unrealistic when their economic situation is so inferior to those of Barca and Madrid. It takes quite a stroke of luck for one of that duo to have an off-season (as is the case with Zinedine Zidane’s men this campaign) but for two…that, would be quite something.
However, cup competitions are less predictable and focus more on mentality, tactical one-offs and timing momentum rather than squad size and depth. Sevilla’s two-legged triumph over Atletico Madrid was stunning – the highlight of their campaign – yet victories over Cadiz and Leganes were almost routine. League form may have dipped with just one victory in Vincenzo Montella’s first five in charge yet hopes of a top four have looked slim for quite some time.
As things stand the Andalucians will return to the Europa League next season, which could well ensure they continue to add to their 17 finals.