Jorge Sampaoli gave what could be his last pre-match press conference as Sevilla manager on Friday morning, ahead of the last game of the season against Osasuna.
The Argentine was asked several questions about his future, with speculation linking his name with the Argentina national team job.
But Sampaoli insisted that his mind was on Saturday’s game against Osasuna, who are already relegated, before giving his verdict on the 2016/17 campaign.
“There’s one game left and it’s as important as the first,” he said. “Our goal was to exceed 70 points and we’re hopeful of doing that. For me, to assess ourselves on a personal level and as a group, we’ve spent a year competing at the top among the best teams in LaLiga.
“Our goal was to exceed 70 points and we’re hopeful of doing that”
“We were there against Lyon, Juventus, we were knocked out unfairly against Leicester when we deserved to go through. We’ve averaged 1.7 goals per game. The sporting project has been good, the team had an identity in the way they played which the Sevilla fans appreciated. All of this filled us with hope and expectation over the course of 12 months.
“We got a new team organised, we competed against strong teams, the best sporting director in the club’s history left and not even that stopped the team from carrying on fighting.”
“To say that we lost a game because we were distracted is unfair”
Of the long-running speculation surrounding the Argentina job, Sampaoli said: “I wouldn’t miss out on managing. My contract has a few clauses which allow me to leave, but beyond that, it comes down to bad intentions and not just from the media.
“To say that we lost a game because we were distracted is unfair. No one is going to take this last game with Sevilla FC away from me, I’ve earnt that and I want to enjoy the moment and to reach a total of 72 points. No one is going to take the last game in Sevilla FC’s dug out away from me.
“The Sánchez-Pizjuán should be a party and, while a lie told a hundred times becomes the truth, what they’re looking for us to divide us. I wouldn’t miss out on this last game.”
“I would only sacrifice my career here to manage my country’s national team”
And, should the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and Sevilla reach an agreement, Saturday’s game will be his last.
“My contract with the club has a few clauses enabling me to leave,” he said. “There is a clear intention on the part of my country to have me as their manager and I have wanted this opportunity from a young age. It’s an opportunity that I turned down when I took over at Sevilla in pre-season, but is still there.
“I feel that I would only stop my career – and everything that I’ve done to become a manager in one of the best leagues – to go and manage Argentina. It’s something that I can’t turn down now. But the president is in charge of this, there’s a contract to respect and nothing has been resolved yet. That said, my contract has a few clauses that allow me to leave.”
He denied that he had selected an Argentina squad: "To give them that squad I have to have authorization from my club, Sevilla FC, over and above the fact that the media speculation might say I've acted in secret. I haven't needed that, I've acted with full clarity and transparency with the club for the whole year.
"The matter of the contract has to be cleared up between the Club and the Federation. In the last meeting I had with the president I conveyed that I was keen to manage the match on Saturday, that there was no chance of me not doing that.
"Now if they reach an understanding it has to be between them, AFA and Club, it's something I want to be settled without breaks, it's important for me that there's understanding on both sides".