Vicente Iborra has had three seasons so far with Sevilla and they have all ended the same way – with victory in the UEFA Europa League.
Now, after slipping out of the UEFA Champions League group stage last year on their way to another UEFA Europa League triumph, Sevilla are back in the senior competition and looking to get through a section including Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb and their hosts on Wednesday, Juventus.
The 28-year-old Iborra, who last term was switched from a defensive midfield role to a more attacking position by Unai Emery, spoke to UEFA.com about the UEFA Europa League hat-trick, his UEFA Champions League aspirations and new coach Jorge Sampaoli’s “radical change”.
On the UEFA Europa League wins …
The Europa League is very special for the club and the fans. Ever since I came to Sevilla, I’ve seen that. I played my first games for the club in the Europa League, the qualifiers and the first group stage match in Estoril, where there were 4,000 Sevilla fans.
You can see how important it is for the club. Thankfully we won it again last season; we really wanted to win it more times than anyone else, and in the end we did it.
For me personally, the first one was much more special because it was the first time I’d played in a final, and I’d just arrived at the club. So it was all new. With time you gain more experience and more confidence to play these kinds of games. So the first one was best, but they are all special.
We know how much work we’ve put into winning each one of these competitions, and now we’ve got the prize of playing in the Champions League, which was something we couldn’t do through the Liga. So it was like a double reward for us: we won a trophy and we got access to the Champions League, which was our biggest and dearest ambition.
Comparing the two club competitions …
Well, the teams in the group stage of the Champions League are bigger – and later, the ones who end up third and go into the Europa League. That means the Europa League has good quality too, because of the teams that drop down from the Champions League, as well as the teams who are already there. They’re both very good competitions, where any side can cause you problems. I think the teams who come down from the Champions League add a lot of value to the Europa League.
On group opponents Juventus, Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb …
We’re talking about the Champions League, so every opponent is difficult whether you’re playing home or away. They’ve all played in this competition before and they have experience. They’re the best teams from their respective countries, just like us.
The aim is to get through the group stage and then do as well as we can. I think we have the team to do that, and that’s the target. We know how difficult our opponents are, we respect them a lot, but we’ll do everything we can to get through the group stage and get to the knockouts. And then try to get as far as possible. Then we can dream about something special.
On new coach Jorge Sampaoli …
It’s a radical change with a different philosophy. The coach wants us to be aggressive, to attack and to feel that we always need to have possession of the ball – I mean that we need it to play, enjoy ourselves and relax.
He wants us to play well, use the ball well, have possession all the time, and be better than our opponents. We’re an ambitious team who work with very clear ideas, mainly the ideas the coach wants to implement.
I’m very grateful for the support the coach has given me since he arrived, and for the confidence he shows in me. I’m playing in different positions, and he knows I’m always here to help him and the team. And of course to feel important, especially in the position that’s mine.
The philosophy now is to have the ball more and attack more throughout the 90 minutes. That’s the biggest difference.
- Flashback: Juventus v Sevilla 2015/16