Football

Published on July 9th, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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An extreme makeover sees Betis join battle for Europe

After a flat year, La Liga side Real Betis have been busy in the transfer market to launch an assault on Europe next season

The summer of 2017 has been a slow one for transfers, due to already debated reasons in previous articles. Basically, no-one aside from Real Madrid has any money.

However, being unable to compete economically with middle-tier sides both in the Premier League and Bundesliga doesn’t mean there aren’t spots of smart management within La Liga.

Take Real Betis, for example. In a transfer window where talented players are fleeing Spain (Vicente Iborra to Leicester; Sandro Ramírez to Everton; Roque Mesa to Swansea; Diego Camacho to Wolfsburg; Yuri Berchiche to PSG – the ‘Verdiblancos’ are reeling in as much talent as possible.

This was a given since Quique Setién, former Las Palmas boss who dazzled everyone in the first half of last season with their quick, quality-driven football style, landed at the Benito Villamarin stadium. The squad needed to become thinner, more focused and more technical to fulfill to Setien’s requirements.

The first step was making room for new signings. A whopping ten players have departed but the biggest loss will be Dani Ceballos, who is set to join Real Madrid for 18 million euros. Betis’ biggest coup came early in the summer, thanks to excellent groundwork laid by former Sports Director Miguel Torrecilla and hammered home by Vice-president Lorenzo Serra Ferrer.

Sergio Leon, one of the best strikers last season who showed his huge potential as a number nine in a poor Osasuna, became ‘verdiblanco’ in the first week of June for a measly 3,5 million euros. An absolute bargain. His initial statement was more than ambitious: “I see myself as capable of scoring 20 goals this season”, he claimed.

Following Leon came Víctor Camarasa, Levante’s wonder-kid who completed an excellent year with Alaves. Real Betis made a good offer for both parties (7 million plus bonuses), and that was enough to seduce him. Camarasa will strengthen the midfield with his energy, positioning and quality.

Loans became a handy way of reinforcing the right-back position, thanks to the agreement with Middlesbrough that allowed Antonio Barragán’s landing in the Villamarin stadium. Former Liverpool and Valencia, he lacks technical prowess but excels in tactical knowledge and ‘stickiness’ to any winger who may try to dribble past him. Swansea’s Jordi Amat, joining on loan, will provide strength in depth.

The last two names are huge in their own ways. Once in the top of the world, former Barca winger Cristian Tello will hope to follow-up his solid season with Fiorentina. His price? Seven million euros. Again, an absolute steal if we take into consideration that Fiorentina wanted to keep the player and there were many European clubs interested in him.

Similarly, Mexican star and PSV idol, Andrés Guardado, wrote a heartfelt farewell to his fans after a three-year run in the Netherlands, where he quickly became one of the captains and key players. Now thirty years-old and with plenty of mileage in La Liga, Bundesliga and Eredivisie, his return to Spain has been agreed with an eye to adding physique, sacrifice and experience to the midfield.

Two seasoned midfielders, two reliable defenders and two dynamic attackers. The backbone of Quique Setien’s new Betis seems to be in good shape, although they weren’t able to keep Ceballos with them. Veteran football connoisseur Serra Ferrer is on a roll and has eyed young midfielder Mario Pasalic as his next target.

Meanwhile, fans have regained hope after a lackluster campaign. Over 25,000 season ticket-holders have already renewed their faith in their team, which is at an all-time high at this point in the summer. But will this extreme makeover be enough to make Betis potential candidates for Europe?

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante's news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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