At the end of Sevilla’s 3-0 victory over Cádiz on Saturday, Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri took the match ball home with him to add to his growing collection.
It was the second home game in a row in which he’d scored a hat-trick for Los Nervionenses, with those three goals putting him onto 12 so far in the 2020/21 LaLiga Santander season. Only Atlético de Madrid’s Luis Suárez has the same tally; nobody has more.
That victory put Sevilla into fourth place in the LaLiga Santander table and it’s fair to say that En-Nesyri has been their most important player this entire campaign.
The Fes-born striker’s dozen league goals represent 46% of Sevilla’s total of 26, while En-Nesyri is also scoring vitally important goals. Six of his 12 LaLiga Santander strikes have been to open the scoring. No other player in Spain’s top division has moved the scoreboard first as often as the graduate of the prestigious Mohammed VI Academy.
The 23-year-old is in the form of his life and is repaying the faith shown in him by the Sevilla hierarchy when he was signed from CD Leganés in the previous winter transfer market.
Over the second half of 2019/20, the forward scored six times and netted two goals during their triumphant Europa League run. But last season it was Luuk de Jong who scored the most important goals for Sevilla as they won the continental trophy.
En-Nesyri then missed a crucial one-on-one chance against Manuel Neuer as Bayern Munich defeated Sevilla in the Uefa Super Cup back in September and the Moroccan was in tears after the game.
However, he has responded in the best way possible. “Life always gives you second chances,” sporting director Monchi told the player and En-Nesyri has stepped up his level to the point where he is one of the most dangerous players in all of LaLiga Santander. “It’s the result of hard work and focus,” the player said of his improvement.
Currently tied with Suárez at the top of the league’s scoring charts, En-Nesyri will be aiming to become just the second ever Sevilla player to win the LaLiga top scorer award.
The other was Juan Arza all the way back in 1954/55. The only other time a player from Africa has finished as LaLiga Santander’s top scorer was when Samuel Eto’o won the award back in 2005/06, so history could be in the making.
En-Nesyri would also be the first North African player to ever take home the prize.
Sevilla, as a club, are looking to make this a historic season.
They won’t be able to retain their Europa League title, but they’re aiming higher, having reached the knockouts of the Champions League – where En-Nesyri has contributed another four goals – and will face Borussia Dortmund in the last 16.
Julen Lopetegui’s side remain alive in the Copa del Rey too and are only one point behind Barcelona and four behind Real Madrid in the league standings as they target a podium finish.
En-Nesyri will be key as Sevilla aim to meet their objectives over the second half of the season, as defenders can’t keep up with his pace and movement right now and goalkeepers are being beaten left, right and centre as the forward’s finishing reaches another level.