The Middlesbrough FC fan who looked up at a brilliant blue sky at noon and said he hoped for rain perhaps knew that 10 May 2006 would be Sevilla FC's day.
The Middlesbrough FC supporter who looked to the heavens at noon and said he hoped for rain perhaps knew 10 May 2006 would be Sevilla FC's day. Summer had come early to Eindhoven. Unseasonably high temperatures, a clear blue sky; Sevilla fans had brought the baking Andalusian sun to the UEFA Cup final and it was shining brightly for them just as it had all season.
Sevilla's semi-final victory against FC Schalke 04 had coincided with the city's Feria de Abril and the fiesta continued at the PSV Stadion where Juande Ramos's side put on a show. Their 4-0 winning margin was a little harsh on a Middlesbrough team who had given their followers much to celebrate en route to the Netherlands. But as Sevilla's veteran captain and cult hero Javi Navarro lifted the UEFA Cup, the club's maiden European trophy, no one could begrudge the Spanish outfit their moment in the sun.
Lap of honour
It was the first prize Sevilla had won since their Spanish Cup triumph of 1948. Middlesbrough, with just one honour to their name, know barren years only too well, and sportingly those Boro supporters still in the ground after the presentation applauded Sevilla on their lap of honour. Middlesbrough had played their part in making the 2005/06 UEFA Cup a memorable one. As captain Gareth Southgate acknowledged, the comeback victories against FC Basel 1893 and FC Steaua Bucuresti were "evenings they will never forget". But in his last match before taking over as England manager, Steve McClaren had been unable to mount one last heroic stand.
With 20 minutes remaining, still trailing to Luis Fabiano's perfectly executed 27th-minute header, McClaren risked everything. On came Yakubu Ayegbeni as a fourth striker, but this time the gamble didn't pay off. Sevilla exploited the extra space and late goals from man-of-the-match Enzo Maresca and Frédéric Kanouté secured victory. The normally straight-faced Juande Ramos even cracked a smile in his post-game press conference, a winner's medal draped around his neck.
Before kick-off the focus had been on McClaren, England's boss-in-waiting; now the cameras turned on Juande Ramos. After a career spent largely in the shadows at Spain's lesser lights, he was stepping into the full media glare for the first time. "We are proud to say Sevilla is now the capital of European football, at least for a week until the UEFA Champions League final," he said. "People have waited a long time for this victory – they will be happy now."
His is a remarkable achievement. A former coach of Sevilla's city rivals Real Betis Balompié, Ramos's appointment at the start of last season did not meet with widespread approval. Those doubters, however, were only too pleased to see him sign a new one-year deal this summer. Sevilla's campaign was tinged with disappointment - they missed out on a UEFA Champions League place on the final day - but it is a measure of Ramos's success that that is where the club's ambitions now lie. Big-money arrivals Christian Poulsen, Ernesto Chevantón and Andreas Hinkel are evidence of that. "This is an explosion of joy you cannot describe," Ramos had said in Eindhoven. As he takes on FC Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup, it is a feeling he will hope to experience again.