- Associated Press - Thursday, August 23, 2018

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - With a hat trick in his debut, Andre Silva proved to be exactly what Sevilla sports director Joaquin Caparros was looking for when he signed him on loan from AC Milan this month.

Sevilla will be hoping to get another strong performance from the Portugal striker on Sunday when its remodeling project is put to the test by a Villarreal side that finished fifth in the Spanish league last season, two spots ahead of the Andalusian club.

Sevilla’s ability to find undervalued players eager to prove their worth was key to its successful run from 2006-16, when it won five Europa League and two Copa del Rey titles.

Silva showed he still has his scoring touch last weekend, netting three times in a 4-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano in the opening week of the Spanish League.

Less could have been expected from the 22-year-old Silva, who only scored twice for Milan in Serie A last season following his 38 million euro transfer from Porto in 2017.

Looking back to his breakout season with Porto when he scored 16 league goals, Caparros spotted the opportunity Silva represented following his dip in form in Italy.

“We have to underscore the desire Andre showed to come here because there were other important clubs (interested in him),” Caparros said. “We take note that he preferred Sevilla over teams that are playing in the Champions League this season.”

Silva’s immediate impact bodes well for a Sevilla club that is looking to rebound with a slew of new players, a new coach and Caparros, a veteran manager who is acting as sports director for the first time at the age of 62.

“We are aware that we want to improve and that Sevilla is an attractive place to play for important players,” Caparros said this week. “There are some days left and things can still happen.”

The transfer window in Spain closes at the end of the month.

Caparros, a Seville native, coached Sevilla from 2000-05 and stepped in as a caretaker manager to finish out last season and salvage a Europa League berth. Now Caparros is trying to emulate former sports director Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, known as Monchi, who year after year scoured the globe for lesser-known players and made millions in revenues when big clubs came shopping.

Monchi took his formula for constructing competitive teams without putting the club at financial risk to Roma last year, ending his 17-year stint at Sevilla.

With Monchi gone, Sevilla signed Manuel “Nolito” Agudo after he failed to earn his place on Manchester City and paid a club record 20 million euros for Colombian striker Luis Muriel. The two combined for 11 league goals.

The club fired coach Eduardo Berizzo, his successor Vincenzo Montella and Monchi’s replacement Oscar Arias for the team’s inconsistent play and lopsided losses, including a 5-0 defeat to Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey.

Caparros has also brought in defenders Joris Gnagnon and Sergi Gomez, midfielders Roque Mesa, Maxime Gonalons and Ibrahim Amadou, goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik, and bought back winger Aleix Vidal from Barcelona.

Defender Clement Lenglet left after Barcelona paid his buyout clause. Also going were midfielders Steven N’Zonzi and Hernan Pizarro, forward Joaquin Correa, and goalkeeper Sergio Rico, among others.

Sevilla hired Pablo Machin as its coach after he impressed with Girona. Machin has guided the team through two rounds of the Europa League playoffs in addition to the victory at Rayo, while losing the Spanish Super Cup to Barcelona 2-1.

Sevilla plays Czech club Sigma on Thursday in the first leg of the final Europa League playoff round.


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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