"It's the best season of my career," said Kevin Gameiro, who has scored half of Sevilla's 14 goals since the round of 32; UEFA.com investigates his sparkling form.
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Last season, Carlos Bacca was Sevilla's star striker as they claimed their second successive UEFA Europa League title. The Colombian left for AC Milan that summer, but Kevin Gameiro has stepped up to ensure that the goals have kept flowing.
In addition to 16 strikes in the Liga, the Frenchman has put away seven in eight UEFA Europa League games since the round of 32, and goes into the final against Liverpool in sparkling form. "It's the best season of my career," he told UEFA.com. "The most important thing as a striker is to be confident. This season I feel completely confident, and everyone trusts me too – my team-mates, the club and the coach."
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Unai Emery has certainly had no reason to doubt Gameiro, who he had tracked at Lorient in France before bringing him to Sevilla in 2013 following two frustrating campaigns at Paris Saint-Germain. "He has a fantastic turn of pace to get away from players and he's very good at getting shots away quickly – a really sharp finisher," said the Sevilla coach. "He puts the first line of pressure on the opposition, with his speed and ability in transitions; that's very positive for the team."
Team captain Coke has been pleased to see the 29-year-old Gameiro coming out of Bacca's shadow. "He is one of the main reasons we are where we are," the right-back told UEFA.com. "He initially had a more secondary role, but he was still very important. Based on the progress he was making, we knew he could step up. He's always helping out, and he's scoring a lot of goals, which is the most important thing for a striker, of course."
Quite why he has hit such a groove is a mystery to the 1.70m-tall Gameiro, who started his career at Strasbourg. "I haven't really changed anything," he noted. "I've got the same skills, but maybe I've worked on my faults as well." Is it luck? Has he changed his pre-match rituals? "I don't have many," he said. "I always step onto the pitch with my left foot first. Otherwise I think about my grandfather, who passed away a while ago, and who I know is watching from above."
Maybe it is just down to simple, old fashioned hard work – very much a hallmark of Emery's UEFA Europa League-winning squads – and maybe Gameiro's quiet assurance will bring him another medal in Basel.
"It's just a game against a good team, and the most important thing is to give everything you have, not ask yourself too many questions and most importantly not have any regrets at the final whistle," he said of his final plans. "Before games I feel pressure, but when I get onto the pitch and we kick off, the pressure's gone and I can play with a clear head."