Coach: Pepe Mel
Key signings: Rafael van der Vaart, Heiko Westermann, Juan Manuel Vargas, German Pezzella
Key sales: Nono, Dani Pacheco, Chuli
Last season: First in La Segunda
This season [predicted finish]: 11th
Predicted finish is the average prediction of the Football Espana team.
Real Betis are back in the top League after a one-year absence, and they return rejuvenated under Coach Pepe Mel and with a host of new signings.
Mel was re-appointed in December after a year’s absence, and despite the club languishing in seventh in the Segunda at that point, they would lose only once in the next six months as they romped to the title.
The former West Brom boss and part-time writer has been well-backed in the transfer market, with the marquee signing of Rafael van der Vaart the standout move. The former Real Madrid playmaker has amassed over 100 caps for his native Netherlands, and will ensure that veteran strike pairing Ruben Castro and Jorge Molina, who netted a combined 51 goals last season, are not starved of service.
Los Verdiblancos have made 10 signings thus far, although this list does not feature any Spaniards. Not yet anyway. Former Betis hero Joaquin has been linked with coming back to Seville all summer long, and a return home from Fiorentina should not yet be ruled out.
Defender Heiko Westermann joins van der Vaart in moving to the Andalusian capital from HSV, while Peruvian left-back Juan Manuel Vargas, Ligue 1 holding midfielder Didier Digard and Foued Kadir inject further experience and knowhow into the squad. Young defensive duo German Pezzella (River Plate) and Amro Tarek (El Gouna) add further options.
With so many arrivals, perhaps one of Mel’s biggest issues this year will be settling on a starting line-up, with so many options and variations available. However unlike their two fellow promoted sides, Las Palmas and Sporting, Betis possess genuine strength in depth and anything less than relatively comfortable will be seen as a massive underachievement.
Their last spell in the top flight was packed full of misery and farce from start to finish, eventually concluding in finishing bottom of the pile and going through five Coaches in less than 12 months. That won’t happen this time around, with the club learning from those mistakes and building a structure more durable for top flight football.
It will be worth keeping an eye on Dani Ceballos, the 18-year-old midfielder who starred in the promotion campaign and was a vital component in Spain’s Under-19 summer triumph in the European Championships. The teenager looks destined to be a global star, but worryingly only has 12 months left to run on his deal, despite a new and improved offer on the table.
A mix of young talent and experienced campaigners should be enough to guide Betis to a minimum lower mid-table finish. The club dreams of a year of stability and steady improvement. They may just get their wish.