After winning the Europa League last season for the second consecutive time and securing a place in this season’s Champions League, 2015-16 was always going to be a massive campaign for Sevilla.
The Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán outfit has unfortunately become accustomed to losing its best players in recent history, with not even the return to Europe’s elite competition preventing this from happening over the summer.
While the allure of Barcelona was too much for Aleix Vidal to refuse, even with a six-month wait to be able to feature for the Spanish champions, the somewhat surprising loss of Carlos Bacca to AC Milan was more of a hammer blow.
Sevilla reacted quickly and decisively in an attempt to nullify the departure of the Colombian hitman, who had scored 49 times in two goal-laden seasons in Andalusia.
After a slow start that saw Unai Emery’s men fail to win any of their first five La Liga games, inconsistency and lowered expectations set in.
However, a much improved run of form since the end of November, where Sevilla have only lost one of their last 12 games, has seen the club back on track.
In attack, Bacca’s departure was clearly felt in the early days of the season, but the emergence of Kévin Gameiro as his replacement has softened the blow considerably.
Despite the summer arrivals of two international centre forwards, it has been the Frenchman that has most commonly made the number nine jersey his own this term and the 28-year-old has thrived in being given a chance to regularly play.
Nine La Liga goals in 12 starts is a solid return for Gameiro, who can play an important role in Emery’s men challenging for the top four again this season.
The striker shot into the widespread conscious with some scintillating displays for modest Lorient in Ligue 1 during his youth, where he boasted a strike rate of almost a goal every other game over three years.
Despite interest from overseas, Gameiro was snapped up by Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 but fell victim to the ever-increasing cohort of international stars attracted by the capital city side’s newfound wealth.
A 2013 switch to Sevilla promised and initially delivered more first-team football, with the Frenchman scoring 15 La Liga goals in his debut campaign in Spain.
However, Bacca’s rise to prominence last season saw Gameiro relegated to fringe status, with only seven league starts and almost three times as many appearances from the bench.
The sprightly attacker has clearly worked hard to be given his chance this season and looks like a centre forward full of confidence and attacking menace.
More composed than an unpredictable Immobile and with the movement to suit Sevilla’s style that Llorente lacks, Gameiro has thrived from the service of attacking midfielders Yevhen Konoplyanka, Éver Banega and Vitolo.
Such is his improvement at club level, France boss Didier Deschamps would be best advised to keep the 28-year-old in his thoughts ahead of next summer’s Euro 2016 competition on home soil.
Although talk of a return to the Les Bleus set-up has been largely non-existent, the example of Lassana Diarra’s reemergence shows the potential for a former international to be given a second chance.
Gameiro has eight international caps and one goal to his name, but his last outing for France was four years ago.
That said, despite the embarrassment of attacking riches at Deschamps’ disposal, the Sevilla forward would offer something slightly different to the national squad.
The likes of wonderkids Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman will surely be included but largely play wide or in support roles, while Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud offer more physical options in the number nine role.
However, Gameiro’s profile as an out-and-out poacher with excellent movement off the ball, remorseless finishing ability and pace in behind defences suggest that his skillset would offer France something that none of the other options, Martial possibly apart, automatically possess.
For the rest of the season, the most important thing for Gameiro is to continue playing and scoring for Sevilla, who are benefiting wholeheartedly from trusting a lethal centre forward that has not always been an automatic selection at club level over the last five years.