By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Sevilla's visionary sporting director Ramon Rodriguez 'Monchi' is to leave the club after 17 years, he announced on Friday, as well as confirming he has spoken to Roma about joining the Serie A club but denying he has signed a deal with them.
Monchi is regarded as the architect of Sevilla's sustained success in the 21st century, with nine of the 13 trophies in the club's 127-year history coming since the former goalkeeper became sporting director in 2000.
In that time the club have won two Uefa Cups and three successive Europa Leagues, two King's Cups, a Spanish Super Cup and a European Super Cup.
A former goalkeeper for Sevilla from 1990 to 1999, Monchi is renowned for his record of bringing talented players to the club on a slender budget, attracting the likes of Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic, Julio Baptista, Gzregorz Krychowiak and Kevin Gameiro and selling them on for far bigger fees.
Sevilla have earned a reported 300 million euros (256.51 million pounds) from player sales during Monchi's tenure as sporting director, leaving a surplus of 150 million euros.
His transfer record has made him a target for a host of European clubs, and Monchi said a number of clubs had tried to recruit him, with Roma making the biggest effort. He confirmed a meeting with the Serie A club's American owner James Pallotta in London last week.
"I haven't signed any deal with anyone but Roma have shown the most interest in me. It's true that I met with Roma the other day in London," Monchi told a news conference on Friday.
"I would like to apologise to the president because I didn't warn him about it, but I just listened to their project, nothing else. I still have to decide where I go."
Sevilla are third in the La Liga standings on 57 points, eight adrift of leaders Real Madrid, and were recently eliminated from the last 16 stage of the Champions League by Leicester City.
"We did everything possible for Monchi to stay but we've decided to come to an agreement. Monchi wanted to leave and that's what he's decided to do," said Sevilla president Jose Castro.
The sporting director said Sevilla had tried to convince him to stay and offered him an improved contract but he was leaving because he wanted a change.
"It's not a professional issue, it's a very personal thing, I'm exhausted. I've been here 29 years, 17 as a sporting director. I wanted to leave last May. Perhaps I didn't go about it in the right way but the idea remained," he said.
"The club tried to convince me to stay in every way possible, with kinds words, with financial rewards, including an offer I would never have got at any other club, but I need to take a breath of fresh air."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Mark Heinrich)