x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Financial realities weighing down high-flying Betis

Reality bites as financial difficulties catch up to Betis

Pepe Mel, left, has found it difficult to recreate last season's success that helped Real Betis climb into the Europa League. Alberto Martin / EPA
Pepe Mel, left, has found it difficult to recreate last season's success that helped Real Betis climb into the Europa League. Alberto Martin / EPA

The season has not gone well for Real Betis. Seventh last term, a position high enough to play Europa League football this season, the popular coach Pepe Mel brought in 14 players during the summer.

That is the norm for a club in administration who have to sell their best talents. The departures included the Spain international Benat Extebarria to Atletico for €8 million (Dh40.4m)

Mel has worked wonders in his three-year spell at the club, but they are 18th after 10 games and were hammered 5-0 at Atletico Madrid on Sunday night.

Their loyal fans – average crowd, 33,000 – who made them the fifth-best-supported club in Spain last season behind the Big Two, Atletico and Valencia, made their anger known at Madrid’s Atocha rail station on the way back to Seville.

Mel, 50, an accomplished crime novelist, called a press conference on Monday and said it would be cowardly to walk away. He believes he has the support of most at the club, but relegation is not acceptable for Betis.

On Tuesday, he was accosted by a group of the club’s ultras at training. They spoke their mind and he spoke his. No threats were made, but if any manager understands the passion of fans it is Mel.

Because of his achievements in getting Betis promoted, expectations have risen. They are playing European football, but the eight European games before December will stretch his still-to-settle squad further. Betis play Levante at home on Thursday, a huge game.

sports@thenational.ae