Cologne (dpa) – 213 teams from all over Europe play in the Europa League – and in the end, FC Sevilla always wins. This is how the legendary slogan of the British football icon Gary Lineker could be rewritten by the Germans, who ultimately always win.
Because with the 3-2 (2-2) in the Europa League final against Inter Milan, the Andalusians won the small European Cup for the sixth time since 2006. This means they are by far the record winners and have won as many titles as all German clubs put together. But the heated, sometimes crazy and spectacular final in Cologne not only provided exciting statistics, but also emotional stories.
TRAGICAL HERO: Romelu Lukaku had what it takes to be a hero. In the 5th minute, the Inter striker converted a penalty he had taken himself into the lead. He had expanded his record series because he scored in the eleventh Europa League game in a row. And he had scored the earliest final goal in the history of the competition. But in the end the Belgian was the tragic figure. Diego Carlos’ overhead kick – who grossly fouled him on the penalty kick – would have flown past the goal. But Lukaku forged it into the gate. Immediately after the final whistle, the 27-year-old ran into the dressing room, skipped the award ceremony and waived his silver medal. Hours after the final whistle, UEFA officially changed the goalscorer and interpreted the goal as Lukakus’ own goal.
REAL HERO: At Borussia Mönchengladbach, Luuk de Jong is remembered as one of the few transfer mistakes made by manager Max Eberl. Now he is the hero of Seville. The winning goal as a joker in the 2-1 semi-final against Manchester United was followed by two header goals after being promoted to the starting line-up: No player had ever succeeded in a European Cup final. “The team’s success is more important than my goals,” said de Jong: “But to win a title and to have scored goals feels wonderful.”
REHABILITATED: In 2018, Julen Lopetegui came into the international spotlight and had to endure a lot of ridicule. First, he was sacked by Spain’s national team before the first World Cup match for announcing his move to Real Madrid, then Los Blancos threw him out after just ten match days. Now he led Seville to victory in the European Cup in his first season. But he didn’t want to show any satisfaction. “It’s true, I haven’t had a long time at Real,” said the 53-year-old: “But then I got the wonderful opportunity to work with this great team. I’m happy here.”
RETURNERS: When Sevilla FC won the UEFA Cup for the first time in 2006 with a 4-0 win against Middlesbrough FC, Jesus Navas played 90 minutes as a 20-year-old. He was also a regular in 2007. Ironically, in the four years in which the small midfielder from the Seville region did not play at home, his club won the Europa League three times in a row. In 2017 Navas returned from Manchester City, now he was allowed to raise the trophy again after 13 years. “I can’t put it into words,” said the 34-year-old, visibly moved.
FUTURE OPEN: Antonio Conte led Inter Milan to the runner-up and the Europa League final in his first year. The Inter coach, who fell out with the club’s management, left his future open. “The time is not to talk about it,” he said.