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Antonio Puerta and Guttmann will be watching from above...

AS AS 14/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

Later this evening Sevilla will play what will be their third European final in eight years – or the fifth if you include the two European SuperCup appearances. This one though is perhaps a little more significant because it comes after a period in which it looked liked the club’s best years were at an end, just as it celebrated its centenary with a fabulous new club hymn. It seemed the club had shifted into other times, marked by a decline on the pitch and the unexpected and unhappy demise of their alma mater and president, Del Nido. But all of a sudden they have made their return, with a revamped squad – one which has overcome the most testing difficulties, amongst them, winning back their disappointed fans.

Not so long ago I got the chance to meet their new president, José Castro who was faced with the task of dealing with the supporters’ disenchantment towards Unai Emery. “We’ve brought in 14 new players; he’s doing a good job...” he told me. Since then, Sevilla have turned around awkward ties against Betis and Valencia and made the final and the atmosphere has completely changed. Around12,000 sevillistas boarded 50 charter flights to Turin with their sense of excitement restored. The betting houses favour Benfica, whose odds are 3-2 against the 2-1 offered to Sevilla. But Emery’s side faced far greater tasks against Betis and Valencia and managed to progress in each instance.

Benfica are one of the old guards of the European game. They were the first side to win the old European Champions Clubs’ Cup (winning it twice in successive years) following Real Madrid’s dominance of the first five editions of the tournament. That Benfica side featured one of the game’s true geniuses, Béla Guttmann, a player born in the former Austria-Hungary Empire. Following those two successes, the club kicked him out for asking for a pay rise which resulted in him casting a curse over the club which has plagued them to this day. Since Guttmann’s departure, Benfica have played seven European finals and lost all of them. He and Antonio Puerta, who put Sevilla into their first European final with his strike against Schalke will surely be watching tonight’s game from somewhere up there in the heavens. I’m sure that both of them will enjoy it.

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