Real Betis’ 3-1 defeat at the hands of Rayo Vallecano on Sunday all but confirmed what is set to be the end result of a rapid decline in fortunes for the Seville outfit this season. Sitting at the very bottom of the La Liga table, the Verdiblancos are 10 points adrift of safety with just four matches of the season remaining. Barring a revival of Lazarus like proportions, they will be playing in the Segunda Division come August.
The manner of defeat was fitting. Strikes by Ruben Rochina, Joaquin Larrivey and an own goal from centre back Paulao ensured Betis were blown away by their mid-table opponents as they looked every bit a second tier side. Javi Chica’s late consolation was a case of too little too late and there will now need to be sweeping changes at the club if they are to mount a serious push for an immediate return to the top flight.
It is all such a far cry from last season where, under the guidance of now West Bromwich Albion Coach Pepe Mel, the Verdiblancos soared to a seventh placed finish and European qualification for the first time since they took part in the 2005-06 Champions League. Mel, who had led the team back into the Primera Division in his first full season in charge at the Benito Villamarin, was gaining plaudits and recognition for the way in which he had gone about the task of re-establishing this famous old club as a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately for Betis, events this season have proven that the job Mel was doing was merely papering over cracks within the club that have since been brutally exposed. The tactician paid the price for last season's overachievements when, with the club’s precarious financial situation in mind, administrator Jose Antonio Bosch said in the summer that he would happily see the Andalusians finish mid-table for the next three years if it meant saving the club from meltdown.
It was therefore decided and seemingly taken for granted that this goal could be achieved with little to no more investment in the team. The policy has backfired spectacularly and now Betis’ impending relegation means they stand to lose out on valuable millions.
Neither have the club helped themselves with their panic-fuelled hiring and firing of Coaches. The still-popular Mel was dismissed in December last year after derby humiliation against Sevilla left the team bottom of the League. In came Juan Carlos Garrido in his place, though he lasted only 47 days before going the same way as his predecessor. It was still enough time for him to provide a withering insight into the turmoil that engulfed the club however as he publicly launched scathing attacks on the club’s board.
As well as describing his own tenure as ‘pointless,’ the Spaniard talked about a desire within the club ‘to harm him’ and about how he had had ‘three different bosses in one month.’ He also said that there were ‘too many fronts open’ and that his players’ morale was a ‘time bomb’ owing to the ‘wars and lies within the club.’ The depressing saga was finally put out of its misery when he was shown the door after a 5-0 home drubbing by Real Madrid.
Gabriel Calderon came next and, while a commendable run in the Europa League took the club as far as the quarter-finals, he has been unable to turn the ailing club’s domestic season around. Inevitable relegation will be confirmed next week if the Verdiblancos fail to beat Real Sociedad or if either Valladolid or Getafe win their respective matches.
So what next for Betis? Instead of money-spinning visits to the Camp Nou and Bernabeu, trips to the likes of Numancia and Alcorcon will be the norm next season. With all the internal and financial uncertainties circling the club, it promises to be a long way back for the Verdiblancos unless drastic changes take place.