Real Betis are like the slightly more troubled brother of Real Sociedad. The latter are everybody’s darling. Well-run, financially secure, with a squad which is two-thirds made up of products from their sensational Zubieta academy. La Real have improved their league position in three of their last four seasons, won a trophy, and after a decade-long absence from the Champions League, have qualified with two games to spare. Real Betis, not so much, but it does not mean to say Manuel Pellegrini isn’t doing an excellent job.
Not least because if it were not for Real Sociedad, there is a strong chance Betis would have made it into the holy grail of the Champions League themselves. Pellegrini took over a team that finished not so comfortably above the drop zone, and in every full season has ensured they qualify for Europe. If you were play aristocrat pokies with no deposit bonus, then you would back him with your hand.
The brooding Chilean has developed a recognisable team every season, despite a number of difficulties. While La Real have invested almost without fault in recent years, Betis have had to deal with major investments like Diego Lainez not working out, or Luiz Henrique not quite catching fire as expected.
A series of key players have departed under his watch too – Sergio Canales and Luiz Felipe the latest, Giovani Lo Celso, Alex Moreno and last campaign they were without star forward Nabil Fekir for the majority of it.
And without spending much money, Pellegrini has found ways to maintain Betis in European competition, without slacking off either domestically or in Europe. Since Pellegrini came in, Betis have made a net profit from transfers of over €90m, showing that if anything, the talent has been taken away from him.
This summer, the exit of Canales deprived him of his best playmaker, while Felipe moving to Saudi Arabia after the transfer window meant Pellegrini was forced to rely on 20-year-old Chadi Riad, who had played around six minutes of La Liga football before his move. In place of Canales, Pellegrini has found a way to do what five previous coaches have been unable to do – get the best out of Isco. Arriving on a free, Isco looks his old self again, a top level player that can swing any game – whom Betis signed on a cut-price deal for free.
Still, Betis remain in 7th position, a point off the European places. This year looks as if it will bring more difficulty than ever to Pellegrini’s challenge, given the form of Girona, La Real and the challenge from Athletic Club too, all while juggling European competition. The Chilean might be a little pricier than other managers around him, but given the sales Betis have made with Pellegrini at the helm, and the money earned from those trips to the Europa League, his deal is looking rather cheap. Something which should be remembered if they do not have European football next season.