Guide to the 92/93 DB – Diego in Sevilla

The MadScientist’s 1992/93 Database for Football Manager 2022 is a truly astonishing piece of work, with hours of work researching and editing the game. It allows us to go back in time and enjoy a different era of football in the game, with the greatest heroes of the past. However, after a long and well-spent time checking this or that players’ attributes, enjoying the memories or even daydreaming of what could’ve been, the question may as well remain… who to play with? In this series I aim to answer that question, diving into the story of some of the most interesting teams and players of the era and making the case for a save with them. In this first episode, we’ll take a look at one of Europe’s greatest teams before they became a powerhouse and a tumultuous year in the life of one of the greatest ever.

Diego in Sevilla

The story of Sevilla FC’s 1992/93 season turns around one man and one man only: Diego Maradona. It begins, however, quite some way from Spain, and quite some time before the Argentinian graced the Andalusian city.

As football entered a new era in the 90s, Maradona’s time at Napoli was drawing to a close

On March 24, 1991, Maradona would play his last ever match for Napoli, beating Sampdoria at the Luigi Ferraris 4-1. A week prior, after a match against Bari, he had been selected for a random anti-doping test. The results were published after the match against Samp; he had tested positive for cocaine. The Italian Federation sought to impose a harsh punishment on him, suspending him for 15 months. Diego took the opportunity to settle in Argentina, and his situation worsened when the Argentinian police raided his home and found drugs, with Maradona ending up arrested and released on bail.

Still, with the sentence set to expire on July 1, 1992, it became increasingly clear he wanted to leave Napoli. The Italian club, however, did not want to let him go. Corrado Ferlaino, the club’s president, could not be seen giving his star away and was set on driving a hard bargain.

Marca’s cover on the day the deal went through. Even with the season in full swing, Maradona was the top story; title says “The FIFA will say yes”

Two clubs emerged as the leading candidates to become Maradona’s third European home, Olympique Marseille and Sevilla FC. The Spaniards, however, had a trick up their sleeve. Earlier in the season, they had signed former Argentina manager Carlos Salvador Bilardo, with whom Maradona had won the 1986 World Cup. El Diez rejected Marseille in favour of a return to Spain and a reunion with his former coach; that meant all that remained was reaching an agreement with Napoli. It was however the trickiest bit of it all.

Ferlaino demanded proper compensation for one of the world’s best, but Sevilla were hesitant to pay a top fee for a player that was entering the last years of his career. However, after Sevilla president Luis Cuervas told Bilardo it wasn’t going to be easy, the Argentinian manager was very clear: “If we don’t sign Diego, I’ll pack my bags and return to Argentina”.

Bilardo needn’t pack his bags, he would get his star man soon enough…

With the deal stuck and going nowhere, Sevilla got some help to get it over the line. As the 1994 World Cup grew larger on the horizon, Sepp Blatter and FIFA pushed for the move, as they didn’t want the world’s biggest star to miss out. At one point, Blatter even threatened Ferlaino and the Italian Federation’s president that should the clubs not reach an agreement, he’d personally intervene, setting up a committee to determine the value of the player, and giving Maradona a provisional transfer so he was able to discuss terms with Sevilla even before Napoli had agreed to the deal.

In the end, an agreement was met, with a transfer worth 750 million Spanish Pesetas, or 7.5 million dollars. Once again, Sevilla required some aid to get things done. In this case, it was Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset who owned Spanish TV channel “Telecinco” and paid the lion’s share of the transfer fee in exchange for the rights to any friendly the Andalusian club played with Maradona in their lineup. On September 22nd, 1992, Maradona became a Sevilla player.

The Argentine’s debut was indeed a friendly, matching up against Bayern Munich. Sevilla made 150 million Spanish Pesetas that day, or about a fifth of the transfer fee.

He was out of shape and sorely lacking in competitive rhythm, but clearly retained all of his quality, and undoubtedly retained his appeal. Regular journalists and squad players alike were astonished at the circus that followed Sevilla from the day Maradona signed. “From one day to the other you started having hundreds of journalists waiting at the club’s doors. From England, from Japan, from all over the world” said one journalist who covered the club. Teammate Rafa Paz had an even closer look at the phenomenon. “We lived just 300 metres away. We didn’t have the opportunity to go have a pint in the neighbourhood” he said to an Argentine newspaper, “You couldn’t go out on the street being Maradona”.

And yet, his early days in Sevilla were his happiest. Slowly but surely, El Diego regained his shape and started to perform better and better. Sevilla toured Europe and the world with their new star, playing the likes of Boca Juniors and Galatasaray, and Maradona seemed happy. At one point he reportedly asked his hairdresser to give him back his Mexico 86 cut, perhaps as a declaration of intent.

At first, Maradona enjoyed Sevilla and Sevilla enjoyed Maradona… it wouldn’t last

In a side that included Croatian goal machine Davor Suker and a young Diego Simeone, they soared high when Maradona was on-game. There is no article, video or documentary covering this time of his life that fails to mention his performance against Real Madrid on December 19th, 1992. It would be, however, the high point of his time in Sevilla.

Things started to go sour in February 1993, when Argentina manager Alfio Basile called Maradona back into the team. The albiceleste were featuring in two friendlies, first against historic rivals Brazil in a match to celebrate the AFA’s centenary, and then against Denmark in the Artemio Franchi Cup, a clash between themselves as winners of the Copa América and Denmark as European Champions. Sevilla denied him permission to play both matches as they felt that would clash with their own game against Logroñés. Maradona said he was going anyway, renting a plane to meet Argentina and then return on time and taking Simeone (who was also called up) with him. 

“We had 2000 or 3000 people every day at training, just hoping to see him”, said teammate Davor Suker. Sevilla received unprecedented attention following the signing

Maybe no one would have cared had he produced an iconic moment of magic on his return. Maybe things would’ve been water under the bridge and made for a fun anecdote. But his performance was atrocious, and so the snowball began rolling. Maradona had always been on a much longer leash than the rest of the team, with his regular missing of training sessions a known secret. His teammates and the staff were aware and accepting of the fact, but for the board it was beginning to feel like too much. 

A grudge started to grow between Cuervas and Maradona and the board even hired a private detective to follow him around. With his relationship with Bilardo also hitting the rocks following an incident when he asked Maradona to take some injections for the pain then substituted him off after ten minutes, the end was nigh. When the Argentine left the club, the board refused payment of his full contract, claiming it was rendered void due to his unprofessional lifestyle, of which they had accrued plenty of proof.

A love story that wasn’t meant to last

Maradona’s career would continue in Argentina, with a coaching spell in between and plenty more controversy until his official retirement in 2001. That, however, is a story for another time.

Sevilla in the 1992/93 MadScientist Database

Taking over Sevilla with MadScientist’s 1992/93 Database, we’re instantly taking over one the La Liga’s best and more ambitious clubs. The start date is the 19th of July, meaning we get Maradona some two months before he actually arrived at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan.

Maradona, Koeman and Stoichkov, just some of the legends you’ll come across in the 1992/93 DB

With El Diego ready to go and a very competitive squad, how far can we take Sevilla? Let’s take a look at the full picture.

Economy and Facilities

The Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan remains one of Spain’s most impressive stadiums and was even more so in 1992. At nearly 44,000 capacity, it’s the 6th largest ground in the league and sure to be a solid source of income provided you can capture the Sevillistas’ imagination.

With good Youth Recruitment and Academy Coaching, you’re bound to nurture some of Andalusia’s top young talent, particularly as your biggest rivals, Real Betis, languish in the Second Division. Excellent training facilities all around should provide plenty of opportunities to develop your players.

The club looks economically secure, with some €71M in the bank and projecting little in way of losses. However, the club is currently above their Wage Budget, so cost reduction should be a priority… you don’t want Cuervas sending a private detective your way!

Club Vision

We may be some thirty years in the past, but some things never change. The Sevilla board aren’t expecting any fireworks during your first couple of seasons, with the goal for the current season being to qualify for the Champions League. Luckily, modern-day regulations make that a much more attainable goal than what it would’ve been in the early 90s, when only the league winners made it into the competition.

Following that, the objective for the 2022/23 season will be to settle as La Liga’s third-biggest side, a position that Deportivo La Coruña and then Valencia would come to occupy in real life. In order to achieve that, you’ll need to carefully manage your resources, as bigger clubs will come for stars like Suker and Simeone. You’ll also need to scout smartly and plan ahead for Maradona’s inevitable drop. Unlike other Sevilla saves, you won’t be getting any help from Monchi, as he’s nothing more than your second-choice goalie this time around.

Squad Review

Diego Maradona

Despite his long absence from the game, El Diego remains one of the best footballers in the world and your best player by a long distance. With his FM alter ego lacking some of his real-life counterpart’s more controversial facets, you should be able to get a good two or three seasons out of him, and maybe even manage to make the white and red of Sevilla the last colours he ever wears.

Although the most logical thing would be to deploy him as a creative midfielder behind the striker, he’s able to thrive in any of the AM positions or as a striker. With some thirty years of tactical innovation in our favour, it could be interesting to use him in a False Nine role like Lionel Messi played with Guardiola or as an Inside Forward in the style of Salah or Robben. Another intriguing option could be to begin training El Diez as a central midfielder, looking to adapt him and deploy him as a deep playmaker as his career winds down. Just don’t try to keep him from defending la albiceleste.

Davor Suker

The Croatian arrived the previous season from Dinamo Zagreb, when he scored 22 goals in 32 matches. His first season in Sevilla wouldn’t be as spectacular, so by 1992/93 he’ll be looking to settle as one of La Liga’s best. If only he could find a tricky playmaker to create goal-scoring situations for him…

As complete a striker as you’re going to find, Suker has dream-like technique and a killer eye for a goal, so he should thrive in any role and tactical setup. If you can get him and Maradona to click, Sevilla’s attack will be deadly. Moreover, unlike the Argentine, Suker has his best years ahead of him. You should, however, be smart enough to lock him contract-wise. His current deal still has five years to go, but with a €17,5M release clause, he’s already attracting interest from elsewhere.

Diego Simeone

At just 22 years old, El Cholo (or El Cholito as he probably would’ve been known at the time) is already a force to be reckoned with. Freshly arrived from a mixed European debut with Pisa for the past two seasons, he’s one of the best defensive midfielders of the league and perfectly capable of securing a defence on his own.

Even more so, with plenty of potential and already a dedicated professional (a trait that would come to define his career both as a player and as a manager), he’s got a lot of room to grow into. A slightly higher release clause might be driving interest away for now, but it will be key for any Sevilla manager to keep it that way.

Potential Signings

With Sevilla boasting one of the best squads in La Liga, it’s always hard to pinpoint an exact place where the team could use an upgrade. Moreover, as we previously stated the club is over their wage limit, meaning any addition we want to make (at least on the first transfer window) will require some financial adjustment. Unlike Cuervas, we can’t count on Berlusconi to pay our bills. However, here are three players that you could sign as Sevilla manager to boost your chances of gaining that all-important UCL spot and build upon to challenge Madrid and Barcelona.

#1 Andreas Kopke

Juan Carlos Unzué is a magnificent shot-stopper. Problem is, that’s the sole highlight of his game. His distribution is terrible, his communication skills sub-par, and at 1,78m he’s bound to be beaten aerially. 

Enter one Andreas Kopke. You can go for Oliver Kahn (who’s still at Karlsruhe) if you fancy the famous name (and the obvious upside), but for a more immediate solution, Kopke is the perfect choice. You can pry him from Nürnberg for just €3M, and although he’ll ask for high wages, you get one of the best goalkeepers of his era at the top of his game. At 30, he’s likely to keep the job for a while, and moreover, he’s got a Model Professional personality which makes him invaluable in shaping his successor, whomever that may be.

#2 Winston Bogarde

On first inspection, Sevilla’s defence looks solid. Pedro Rodriguez and Martagón are very good and the rotation options are young enough. And yet, when you look closer, you can see some cracks. Rodríguez is entering the twilight of his career at 32 and rotation options like Del Campo and Prieto are far from first team quality for now.

Bogarde offers a quick fix and a lot of upside. You can sign him from Sparta Rotterdam for €4.5M and he’ll instantly become one of your top options; his aerial presence and powerful physique will also add another aspect to your defence.

#3 Julio Toresani

It might not seem at first sight, but you only have a single right back in your first team. Luckily, Alberto Cortijo is a top option… but he’s not immune to injury or suspension. This opens an ideal gap for a backup.

Once again, there’s a clear candidate for the job, this time in Javier Zanetti. The would-be Inter captain is already Accomplished or better in six positions and boasts a Model Citizen personality at just 18 years old. However, if you (like me) don’t wish to exploit the hindsight, I’d go for River Plate’s Julio Toresani. Sure, he’s 24, and sure he’s not as good nor won’t ever be as good as Zanetti, but you’ll have to face less competition for him, and he offers a different dimension to your team as a very attacking, very aggressive, very brave player (isn’t that cult favourite material?) on your right full-back for just €1.5M. At that price, not even his famous 1997 feud with Maradona seems a problem…

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