Inside Spain is a weekly instalment brought to you by Football España, providing an insight into all of the major stories coming out of the rich and intense climes of La Liga and beyond.
It’s been another tumultuous week in Spanish football, but in Spain football is again where the press get hysterical and at the end of the season, Sevilla win the Europa League.
Jose Luis Mendilibar in his first major final, and just his seventh European tie, outfoxed Jose Mourinho in the Europa League final to bring the title back to its rightful home in Seville. After beating Roma on penalties, there were wild celebrations amongst the Sevilla squad, and around Spain, a general feeling of good will for the 62-year-old Mendilibar. Save for a brief spell at Athletic Club, the Basque manager has battled away towards the bottom of the table for the last 20 years, and was brought in to Sevilla to save them from relegation, just two points above the drop zone at the end of March.
For context, he kept Eibar in La Liga, a town of 28,000 people, for five years before eventually succumbing to the odds in his penultimate job, while last season he could not save Alaves from relegation, dismissed after three months from bottom of the table Alaves. And at half-time in the Europa League final, he made a double-change and switched the game in Sevilla’s favour against Mourinho’s Roma. Something Mourinho did not take well, and may well face the consequences for.
Meanwhile back in the Spanish capital, Karim Benzema is the centre of attention for very different reasons with one game to go this season. Harry Kane was linked to Los Blancos last week, and at the beginning of this one there was a major current of news claiming Benzema would accept an offer rising into the hundreds of millions to join Al Ittihad in Saudi Arabia.
— Football España (@footballespana_) June 2, 2023
At an awards night hosted by Marca, Madrid’s largest football newspaper which is closely linked to Real Madrid, Benzema said ‘the internet isn’t reality’. And yet, a number of the Madrid media weren’t quite convinced, following the initial reports on Benzema’s decision earlier in that day.
The other saga involves Lionel Messi. Barcelona look as if they will be made to wait longer in order to get approval from La Liga to sign new players, and that puts pressure on a potential deal with the Blaugrana. There is a current of feeling that his agent and father Jorge Messi is advising his son to take his business elsewhere though. Xavi Hernandez has told the media that it is 99% up to him, and he will decide next week. Each side is trying to come out of this looking smart, but Xavi may have a point in that whatever Messi wants, he tends to get.