Sevilla looking to build on Europa League triumph
MADRID (Reuters) - Sevilla are looking to build on their thrilling Europa League success after overcoming Benfica in a penalty shootout in Wednesday's nerve-shredding final in Turin.
The La Liga club won Europe's second-tier club competition in 2006 and 2007, when it was known as the UEFA Cup, crowning one of the most successful periods in their history when they competed with Europe's wealthy elites.
However, their financial struggles have often forced them to sell top performers to stay afloat and it remains to be seen whether they will be able to hold on to the current crop of players.
Thanks to their fine showing in Europe and decent performance La Liga this term, the likes of Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic, Portugal goalkeeper and the hero of Wednesday's shootout Beto, and forwards Kevin Gameiro and Carlos Bacca have reportedly attracted the interest of richer rivals.
Beto believes continental success has handed the club an opportunity to develop the current, relatively young squad and create the consistency that has been lacking in recent years.
"This team is very eager to grow," Beto, who pulled off a string of saves during the match before stopping two of Benfica's penalties, told reporters.
"There is a buzz about them," added the 32-year-old, who had stints at Portuguese clubs including Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Braga.
"It's a very young side and the personnel has changed a lot over the past year, with 14 or 15 new players, players with little experience but with a lot of quality, with joy in the legs, head, mind and soul.
"We've become stronger, and we are looking forward to achieving more and growing."
The Sevilla players will celebrate with their fans back in the Andalusian capital later on Thursday, with a ceremony planned in the city centre and later at the club's crumbling Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.
Club president Jose Castro has promised a surprise for the supporters, prompting speculation he could announce Sevilla have managed to persuade Rakitic to extend his contract or have rewarded coach Unai Emery, whose deal expires at the end of the season, with an extension.
Rakitic, who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid where international team mate Luka Modric plays, gave little away about his future after Wednesday's final, when he was voted man of the match.
"I have Sevilla in my heart and those who know me know that the feelings are so strong that sometimes my wife has to rein me in," he told reporters.
"Today is a day for Sevilla and not for Rakitic," he added. "There is time now to enjoy (the celebrations) and later we'll see what happens."
(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)
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