In the celebratory moments in Cologne, after lifting their record-extending sixth Europa League trophy, the Sevilla players and staff were seen wearing the same T-shirts.
On the shirt, were the images of two men who were closely associated with the club but died too soon. The club remembered two of their fallen heroes at a time of joy: Jose Antonio Reyes and Antonio Puerta.
Indeed, Sevilla captain Jesus Navas dedicated his club’s sixth Europa League title triumph Reyes, killed in a car crash last year, and Puerta, who died from a heart attack in 2007.
The Spanish side defeated Inter Milan 3-2 in a thrilling final on Friday.
Navas, however, was quick to hail Reyes and Puerta.
Reyes, who played in three Sevilla teams which won the Europa League, was killed in June last year. He helped Sevilla win the Spanish second division in his first stint at the club. He won the Europa League five times, twice with Atletico Madrid and three times in his second spell at Sevilla.
And, one of Navas’ closest friends, Puerta died at the age of 22 after suffering a heart attack in a Liga game in August 2007.
“To be able to raise this cup as captain of my Sevilla means so much to me, for all the people, for friends who are no longer here – for Puerta, for Reyes,” Navas said.
“And for my godfather who has died. I hope Sevilla fans are proud of us. We all lift the trophy because we are all captains.”
Both Reyes and Puerta came through the ranks in Sevilla and were products of the club’s famed conveyor belt of talent. Puerta made his senior Sevilla debut in the 2003-’04 season and went on to make 88 appearances. Reyes, who was also part of the Arsenal Invincibles squad that went 49 matches unbeaten, made 253 appearances in two spells with the Spanish club.
In fact, Navas returned to the club 2017 and picked No 16 as his jersey number while he preferred No 15 previously. The No 16, of course, was worn by Puerta and Navas saw this as an inspiration to bring success to the club on his return.
Navas also hailed coach Julen Lopetegui, two years after the embarrassment of being sacked as coach of Spain on the eve of the 2018 World Cup. He then lasted just 14 games as Real Madrid boss.
“Lopetegui works 24 hours a day for Sevilla, he deserves this,” Navas said.
Diego Carlos, whose overhead kick deflected in off Romelu Lukaku 16 minutes from time to give Sevilla victory, says he had double reason to celebrate.
“This title was very important for all of us. I thank the club for all they have done for me. I’ve scored a goal, won a trophy and my wife is pregnant,” said the 27-year-old Brazilian.
(With inputs from AFP)