Jorge Sampaoli insists potential offers won't distract Sevilla focus
Jorge Sampaoli has said that should Sevilla lose to Valencia on Sunday, it would be because he is a bad coach and not because he is distracted by potential coaching opportunities with Argentina or Arsenal or any other team.
"What upsets me is that any losing streak the team might have is linked to things that are unrelated," Sampaoli said during his prematch news conference. "If Sevilla lose because their rival played better, that is down to the manager's lack of ability, not because of [potential] contracts."
The former Chile boss, who joined Sevilla last summer, has also been a reported target of the Netherlands and has been considered a contender for the coaching positions at Barcelona and Arsenal.
However, he angrily denied he is to meet with the Argentina Football Association (AFA) this week and insisted he is only focused on the end of the season.
"I've already been Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and the Netherlands manager," he said in reference to rumours that he is a contender to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona or Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
"People are playing with my name and I cannot come out every day to deny it. If the club decides to bring out a statement every time I am linked with a club, there would be a lot of statements."
Luis Enrique is to leave Barca after the season and Wenger has yet to confirm if he will remain in charge of Arsenal.
"I've been the whole week thinking only about Valencia and in giving our fans some joy," he said. "Everything that is being said is due to speculation, including the [club] statement, which is not my business."
"This city has offered me a lot of love and I will leave all that I have until the end so the team finishes as high as possible."
Sampaoli is a candidate to replace Edgardo Bauza, whose eight-month reign as Argentina boss came to an end earlier this week when he was dismissed due to the team's struggles in World Cup qualifying.
"The new Argentina manager? In order for such an important thing to happen, I would have had to have a personal meeting, which has not occurred," Sampaoli said.
"Had I given the go-ahead, I would already be the national team coach and that is not true. I don't decide the future. What happens after our seven games that we have remaining does not interest me."
Daniel Angelici, the AFA vice president, insists Sampaoli remains their main target.
He told Fox Sports as reported in Ole newspaper: "Today [Thursday] I spoke to him [Sampaoli] as I do every Thursday.
"We have a consensus in our Executive Committee for him [Sampaoli] to come. But we are being respectful with him and with the club that made such a great effort to sign him, to wait for Sevilla's season to finish. If it's Sampaoli, we need to wait for the season to be over."
AFA president Claudio Tapia arrived in Spain on Friday and denied reports in Argentina claiming the AFA would hold talks with Sampaoli with a view to taking over the vacant national team position.
Tapia told reporters he was only planning to meet with Argentina captain and Barcelona star Lionel Messi regarding Messi's upcoming appeal against a four-match ban by FIFA.
On Wednesday, Sevilla warned the AFA that any meeting with Sampaoli, who is under contract with the Andalusian club until June 2018, would be "unacceptable."
Sevilla, who play at Valencia on Sunday, have offered Sampaoli a one-year contract extension, with his current deal expiring in June 2018.
Sampaoli and Sevilla president Jose Castro watched the Holy Week festivities in the city on Monday.
"The only thing I spoke about with the [Sevilla] president [Jose Castro] is that when I have to announce something, I will do so first to him," he said. "I don't have a meeting arranged with the club. I'm not focusing on anything other than our last seven league games.
"My contract extension? It doesn't depend on me. I have a contract that has not been altered and that has clauses that are favourable for both the club and myself."
Among those clauses, Sampaoli can leave Sevilla this summer provided his €1.5 million release clause is met. Sevilla are fourth in the standings, one point adrift third-place Atletico, who hold the last direct Champions League qualifying spot.
"We have seven finals left," Sampaoli said. "The players, who listen to me every day, are not thinking about other things."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.