Nemanja Gudelj (Belgrade, Serbia; 31 years old) was a few months away from parenthood. But his wife, Anastasia, almost six months pregnant with a baby girl, lost the baby she was expecting. The player told it on Monday night on his Instagram account, in a story: "We have bad news, but we know we will have your support and understanding. To our great sadness, Anastasia and I lost our baby. This is a painful time for us, but our love will conquer this too." With that brief message and a few hours after embarking with the expedition of Sevilla to Budapest, where his team will play on Wednesday the final of the Europa League against Roma (21.00, Movistar), the midfielder explained to the world one of the worst news of his life.
Despite the pain, on Tuesday, the player boarded the plane with his teammates. Just six days ago, Gudelj himself told this newspaper the illusion that made him be a father, and reflected on the value of family and health, because two months ago his brother, Dragisa, player of Córdoba, suffered a ventricular tachycardia that caused a cardiac arrest during a game. "Family, religion and health are more important things than football. Now I am also expecting my first daughter and after what happened with my brother you realize that the health of the people you love is very important, "said Nemanja in conversation with EL PAÍS less than a week ago.
On the flight to Budapest was also Dragisa, 25 years old and defender, who vanished on March 26 in a clash of the First Federation against Racing de Ferrol. He was revived on the pitch and saved his life. During the Europa League quarterfinals against Manchester United, Christian Eriksen, the Danish player who suffered the same problem as Dragisa during the dispute of the last European Championship, chatted with Nemanja and worried about the state of his relative. He will return to play football thanks to a defibrillator in his heart.
The life of the Gudelj is full of obstacles, of blows. The father, Nebojša Gudelj, was a professional footballer and fled the war in his country, Serbia, where his brother lost his life. He came to Spain to play for Logroñés in 1994, coming from Partizan Belgrade. His wife, Nemanja's mother, was a basketball player. The marriage forged a footballer who takes care of himself to the extreme and enjoys his profession. Against Roma, he will have the chance to win his second Europa League after 2020.
"My mother taught me to take care of my diet since I was little. My father did the rest. He played in Spain, in Logroñés, and forged me as an athlete. He instilled in me a very great discipline and made it clear to me: without training more than the rest you can never stand out. He was demanding, he got the most out of me. He took me to the forest to train, to run with him, he taught me a lot. Not only physically, but also tactically to know how to play in different positions. If I am a footballer, it is also thanks to them, "Gudelj detailed a few days ago.
The Sevilla midfielder, at the club since 2019, has already played another Europa League final, the 2020 one against Inter Milan, but that one was behind closed doors, due to the coronavirus pandemic. This Wednesday will also be special for recovering the heat of the public and for the history of overcoming the Serbian. Those of Mendilibar will feel surrounded by 14,000 sevillistas who are expected to travel to Budapest, venue of the final. "In 2020 we beat Manchester United and Inter, it was also very nice. The strength of this team in this competition is incredible because there is a special connection. But the big difference in this final lies in our fans, who will be able to be in Budapest. That last victory (in Cologne) was marked by the pandemic. Now ours will be with us. It will be different. We want this Cup", clarifies Gudelj, a physical marvel, about to renew with Sevilla, with whom this year he has played everything.
Monchi, the sporting director of Sevilla: it is clear, Nemanja is the player with the most minutes played (4,298 in all competitions) and has participated in 51 games, the most of the entire squad. What's behind the Serbian international's astonishing regularity? An almost spartan dedication to football. "I changed my diet seven years ago. I say I'm vegan so you understand. Food is everything. Being correct helps you compete and recover. I don't eat meat or fish, I don't drink milk, cheese or products of this type," clarifies the footballer.
Gudelj has a personal cook in his home, where he lives with his entire family, including his younger sister, who is a tennis player. The chef, whom Gudelj brought from China, where he played two seasons from Ajax, cooks for everyone. Back in Europe, the player signed for Sporting Lisbon and, a season later, Monchi brought him from Portugal to put him under the orders of Julen Lopetegui. After three courses in which he was a good substitute, the explosion has come in the current one, convulsive for his team, which fooled with the descent until Mendilibar put some order and calm in the team, whose strength also lies in the example of guys like Gudelj, example of resilience.
Gudelj, in the center of the image, trains with his teammates in Budapest.
Now, just a few months later, the season can have a great finale: eleventh placed in LaLiga and finalist of the Europa League. "I always tried to do my best. I had a hard time the third season, the last one, when they didn't register me for the Champions League and I was more outside than inside. I thought about going out. Everything changed after a talk before the winter market with Lopetegui. He told me that he was going to need me because of the casualties that the team had and I started playing defense in the second round of last season. Since then, I have not stopped, "clarifies the Serbian, transferable in summer and now a mainstay of Sevilla. A Seville that looks in its mirror.
Gudelj has been a fixture for Lopetegui, Sampaoli and now Mendilibar, the coach who has changed the face of Sevilla. He has gone from fighting for permanence to traveling to Budapest after eliminating Manchester United and Juventus. Gudelj is clear about the reasons for Mendi's success. "He's touched on things that were important right now. And then, he has given us a very Sevilla football, like the one we want to see here. A football of high pressure, of dominating in the opponent's field, of finishing a lot and finishing the plays. Few touches in their own field and more dominance in the opponent's, always trying to finish the plays. A football that our people appreciate very much", proclaims Gudelj, who will play with the pain of the loss of his daughter and who will meet in Roma one of the footballers he admires the most. His compatriot Matic.
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