The 43-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent years. Just a few seasons ago he took over a Girona side lurking near the bottom of LaLiga 1l2l3 but today finds himself leading Sevilla in the search for a return to the Champions League.

Here’s the story of one of LaLiga’s brightest coaching talents.

On October 7th, 2018, Sevilla’s 2-1 victory over RC Celta saw them rise to the very top of the LaLiga Santander table. For coach Pablo Machín, this was an incredible but not altogether surprising achievement. When he took over Girona in 2014 they sat bottom of LaLiga 1l2l3, Spain’s second division. In the space of four years, he’d risen an incredible 41 places in the national footballing pyramid.

EARLY SETBACKS: CD NUMANCIA

When things started to go well for the Spanish tactician they went really well, but his coaching story actually began back at the end of the 1990s. After a knee injury forced him to retire as a player at the especially young age of 23, Machín went into coaching and spent over a decade working in the youth academy of his local club CD Numancia, in Soria.

As time went on he rose to serve as an assistant coach on the first-team staff and led the Numancia B team. In the summer of 2011, the then-36-year-old took over the first team from Juan Carlos Unzué. Two middle-of-the-road seasons followed, finishing 10th and then 12th, and he decided to leave the club in 2013 after more than a decade and a half employed by the institution in various capacities.

“I feel proud to have trained such a gentlemanly club,” he said at a tearful press conference as he departed the Nuevo Estadio Los Pajaritos. “Now, new doors will open for me.”

NEW CHALLENGE, NEW HORIZONS: GIRONA FC

That next challenge came in Catalonia when he received a call from Girona with 13 rounds of the 2013/14 season remaining. The Blanquivermells were bottom of LaLiga 1l2l3, just a season after reaching the promotion play-offs, and had a talented yet underperforming squad. The club believed Machín was the man to save them, and he thought so too.

Taking 15 points from the final 13 matches of the season, the former Numancia boss was able to keep the Catalan side in the division and changed their fortunes almost instantly, leading them to the promotion hunt the following campaign. Agonisingly, his 2014/15 Girona side were just minutes away from a first ever promotion to LaLiga Santander but a last-gasp goal from Lugo on the final day saw them held to a 1-1 draw which left them level on points with R. Sporting and, as a result, outside of the automatic promotion places by the thinnest of margins.

Undeterred, Machín persevered and, after another unsuccessful trip to the promotion play-offs in 2015/16, he finally led them over the line and into LaLiga Santander with a second-place finish in 2016/17. “Even though we could have achieved it earlier, we’re happy to do so now that we’re a more mature club and one with a stronger infrastructure,” he said as he celebrated that promotion. “We’re better prepared for the top flight now.”

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He was certainly right about Girona being prepared. They took the top tier by storm, sitting as high as seventh with 10 weeks of the season to go and ultimately finishing 10th, earning some memorable results along the way as they defeated Real Madrid 2-1 at home and drew twice with Atlético de Madrid. Their style of play received plenty of plaudits too, with Machín’s use of a back three catching on at several other top tier clubs.

INTO THE BIG TIME: SEVILLA FC

So impressive was his work at Montilivi that Sevilla came calling in the summer of 2018. It was too good an opportunity for the 43-year-old to turn down and he left for Andalusia, ready to start an early pre-season and to steer the Rojiblancos through their Europa League qualifiers.

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More stunning results have been added to Machín’s résumé at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. His side have topped the LaLiga Santander table at the end of three separate matchdays and now sit fourth, well in contention for a return to Europe’s top club competition. Sevilla also reached the Copa del Rey quarter-finals and are going strong in the Europa League. The Pablo Machín story had already featured several happy endings, but there’s a strong sense that the very best is yet to come.

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Damon Palmar
damon@footballnationradio.com