Gary Medel: Finally a midfielder Sevilla can rely on
Over the past decade, Sevilla have had some impressive central midfield partnerships, but there have been a few which just quite simply have not worked out or lived up to expectations.
The partnership of Renato and Enzo Maresca was effectively the bedrock for the club’s success in the UEFA Cup in 2006, with both players more than capable of creating goals, scoring themselves or breaking up the play of the opposition. Generally speaking they were good all-round centre-midfielders, without being particularly spectacular at a great deal.
After the aforementioned duo came Christian Poulsen and Seydou Keita, arguably the best centre midfield the club has ever. Poulsen’s steel off the ball meant he sat deep, just in front of the defence, while Keita’s all-action style meant he was able to help the Dane out, or get forward to good effect, something he did regularly.
The duo’s grip on the heart of the team ended prematurely as Poulsen left for Juventus, and Keita went off to Barcelona, and since then there has not really been the same energy in the club’s midfield.
Didier Zokora impressed for a year before his off-field antics saw him shipped off to Turkey, while Christian Romaric had similar problems. All the while Renato and Maresca were getting older and older, and less capable of bailing the team out. But then arrived two new hopes; Ivan Rakitic and Gary Medel.
The Croatian was the more renowned of the two, but Medel has undoubtedly become the essential cog in midfield.
Nicknamed the ‘Pitbull’, Medel’s game is a more intense and hyped-up incarnation of Poulsen. The Chile international swarms around his opponents like blood-thirsty mosquitoes, hassling them into making mistakes before nicking the ball off them.
Medel compliments Rakitic well, with the former Schalke man the more creative influence, but his job would be far harder without ‘el Pitbull’ doing the dirty work.
The problem with Medel has often been pinpointed as his over-tenacious style, with his tendency to get carried away and lose his temper particularly frustrating.
Last season he picked up 16 yellow cards in 30 La Liga matches, but early indications suggest he may have calmed himself down a little this year.
Aside from a rather harsh red card picked up against Barcelona, Medel has picked up only three yellow cards in eight matches so far, while his tackles-per-yellow-card ratio is a massive improvement too. Last season he was picking up a yellow card every 2.6 tackles, yet so far this season that stands at six.
The 25-year-old’s importance to Sevilla is highlighted by the fact that they have won just two of their last nine matches that he has not played, losing five of those.
After a number of years failing to replace the several impressive central midfields assembled at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Medel is making up for the likes of Romaric, Lolo, Zokora, Luca Cigarini and Tiberio Guarente, all of whom failed to prove themselves to be good enough for Sevilla.
However, it takes two to tango, and Medel cannot run a team by himself. It is time to stand up and be counted, Rakitic.