In Argentina he has been a national hero since the World Cup, but at his club Sevilla FC Gonzalo Montiel is not yet able to convince. It remains to be seen whether the right back will play in the Europa League match against PSV on Thursday evening.
Just take it, as a relatively inexperienced and unknown footballer. The decisive penalty in a World Cup final, with the whole world watching. Montiel did not turn his hand to it. Almost carelessly, he shot the ball behind the French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from eleven meters in Qatar at the end of last year. Argentina was world champion.
Earlier, Montiel also used his penalty kick against Andries Noppert in the quarterfinals against the Orange. The fact that national coach Lionel Scaloni saddled the right back with the important jobs was no surprise to the Argentinian fans. Montiel converted all ten penalties he took in his career.
The 26-year-old defender is a specialist from eleven meters. He often sends the keeper into the wrong corner with his ‘no look’ penalties, by looking to one side and shooting in the other corner. That trick earned him the nickname ‘El Cachete’ (The Cheek) in Argentina.
In Seville, however, the star role of Montiel in Qatar was viewed with surprise. Since the defender was taken over from River Plate for eleven million euros in August 2021, he has not yet made a great impression in Andalusia.
Montiel shuttles between bank and base. “We haven’t seen the real Montiel here yet,” says Antonio Caamaño, reporter for the regional radio station Channel On. “He has had a very difficult time in the beginning. He has been doing a bit better lately.”
The advance of Montiel at Seville coincides with a change of trainer. Julen Lopetegui was sacked in October last year when Sevilla camped in the relegation zone. His successor is a compatriot of Montiel: former Argentinian national coach Jorge Sampaoli.
The new trainer recently spoke encouraging words about Montiel at a press conference. “Gonzalo’s performance is linked to that of the team. If we get into the opponent’s half a lot, he can play an important role in our attacking game.”
“But if we don’t have the ball, it’s a bit more difficult for him. I’m confident that he will improve in this area.”
A week and a half ago it became clear what Sampaoli meant. Montiel made a mistake on all goals during the 3-0 defeat against FC Barcelona. It was an incident, for both the defender and the club. Because since the turn of the year, four of the six league matches have been won and Montiel is playing more and more often and better.
PSV coach Ruud van Nistelrooij is an admirer of the style of play of Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli:
‘Great to run into Sampaoli’
Thanks to the good results, Sevilla left the relegation zone behind. Sampaoli’s team is now twelfth, although the gap with the teams below the red line is still very small. The lead over number eighteen Valencia, which is just below the relegation line, is only four points.
‘Europa League not a priority’
“League enforcement is a priority,” says journalist Caamaño. “The Europa League is less important. Sevilla will not play against PSV with its strongest team, but it will be a really competitive team. Sampaoli will not field a B-team.”
The trainer himself spoke similar words during his press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “We have to think about enforcement in La Liga first, then everything else comes.”
“We will play with the best possible team of that day against PSV. And on Sunday against Rayo Vallecano I will choose the best team of that day. Because the matches are so close together, it will not be possible to be the same team twice.”
Whether Montiel will get a basic place against PSV? The chance seems small, because Jesús Navas sat next to Sampaoli at the press conference. The 37-year-old captain is his direct competitor as a right back.