36 of the total 38 games have been played of the 17/18 season. The supporters of the Verdiblancos were living their dream: 2 games before the season was coming to an end, they were lying on a wonderfully 3rd place. A 3rd place that would have seen them qualifying directly to UCL Group Stage. 3 points before the big FC Barcelona, who was having a nightmare of a season, and 6 points before their fierce rivals FC Sevilla. Who would have imagined this before the season had started?
It's been a year with a lot of magical nights, the boys made everyone that supported Los Verderones proud. How difficult was it too see all the success that the FC Sevilla had during last years. Especially the time around Christmas had been wonderful: When looking back the families with a green-white heard will remember the magic and happiness they felt at that time. On a 16th December 2017 Betis Sevilla travelled to the Camp Nou and beat the FC Barcelona by 0-2 with two lovely goals between the 14th and 18th minute from loanee Joan Campbell (which few weeks signed with Villareal on a Bosman-deal). Barcelona could never recover from the shock. Just two weeks later, it was time for the first Derbi Sevillano of the season. The FC Sevilla came to visit the Estadio Benito Villamarín. With two goals from Danilo and Tello, Betis managed to secure a memorable 4-0 victory over their fierce rivals. With these two big wins the Betis's supporters started to dream that the qualification was still possible. And it really was. After 36 games a 5th place was secured for sure, but Subiat dreamed of bringing the sound of the Champions League to the Estadio Benito Villamarín.
In addition I have to say that in Spain the games against the opponent counts more than goal difference if teams finish with same amount of points. Betis drew against Barcelona in their second encounter of the season, so the team of Catalonia needed to make 4 points more than Betis. Sevilla needed to win the Derbi and make sure they compensate the 4-0 loss in the first encounter. Two games left, one was the hardest away game, the away-Derbi, but the last game against Deportivo Alavés was easily winnable right. This 3rd place and the spot in the next years' UCL group stage was impossible to bottle, right?
But we did. A 0-4 at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and a 0-2 loss saw us finishing 4th, just one point short to FC Barcelona. Their former youth players Bojan and Munir saved them from the disgrace of playing the UCL Qualification playoff. A wonderful season hadn't got the dreamed end everyone was hoping for, but still it was an amazing season. UCL playoff instead of a midtable finish.
Before attending the season-end party the next day after the loss in the last league game, the coaching staff sat together and tried to decide the date of the start of preseason. Just then the son of assistant manager Eder Sarabia's son called. He put him on speaker:
Papa, no te los crees. Estamos en la champions, no hay cualificación !!!
Wait, what? Yes sir, apparently all top 4 La Liga teams have been given a direct place in the European group phase (not even counting Athletic Bilbao who will also take part of the competition as UEL winner). What a surprise that was!
The party that evening was also the farewell party of two Betis legends: Joaquin and Rubén Castro. Combined they had played over 600 games for Betis Sevilla. Both decided two step down at the end of the season. Rubén Castro who was in China in the first part of the season was quite important in the last months and Joaquin was quite an important player for the whole season. His retirement was a shock for the club, he had just signed a new contract to stay in the first team for another year. Could it be better to celebrate the career of Joaquin and Rubén Castro with an unexpected UCL group stage qualification?
It will be interesting if the departure of two team leaders at the same time will affect the squad dynamics, or do just others step up? Currently only Andres Guardado has stepped up and is now listed as team leader.
Nothing to say much more about the league performance, since it was just brilliant - Betis was names as Biggest Overachievers. One of the Key Players was Cristian Tello who assisted a total of 13 goals (besides scoring 6 goals), which is top in the league. Cristiano Ronaldo secured the Top Goalscorer award with a tally of 34 goals. Manager of the season was Betis manager Nestor Subiat.
Meanwhile in the Copa del Rey we faced Valencia in the 5th round after beating Getafe. But Valencia was too strong and we saw ourselves ending this competition pretty early. Athletic Bilbao went down surprisingly and Real Madrid was on another level this season. Atletico Madrid had another great season by finishing 2nd and losing just 0-1 to Chelsea in the UCL Finale.
Betis Deportivo Balompié, the reserve team, finished in a solid mid-table position on a 13th place. 17 points before a relegation place and 12 points missing to secure a promotion playoff spot. I am happy that we could stay away from relegation as a newly promoted team. After 3 games and 3 losses it looked like the team could go back down right away, but the team pulled some solid performances and managed to finish the season in still waters. During the summer transfer window I plan to bring some cheap, but talented youngsters which will get game time in the reserves and hopefully increase the quality of the squad. The goal for the season 2018/2019 for the reserves is to fight for a promotion playoff place. In order to reacht that goal talented Manu Hernando and Martín Calderón join from Real Madrid. Both have played in the Segunda División B1 for Real Madrid Castilla last season.
The youth team finished 5th in their division, which has been dominated by fierce rivals. Keeping in mind there isn't currently any talent in this team it's quite a solid result. I guess this will keep on for a few seasons like this, as talented players will be moving quite fast to the reserves. As soon there's enough talent or we have some players that aren't ready for professional football we can fill up the youth team with raw talent.
Thanks to the great performances (and some money still on the bank) the board decided to add another 4M to the transfer budget. Rodri and Bebe were added as winter transfers, while Sergio Leon was leaving the club as he didn't make enough impact on the pitch.
One of the first transfers was the signing of Sergi Palencia from FC Barcelona. The former Barca B captain has been chosen as the replacement of rightback Antonio Barragán, who had been loaned from Middlesbrough, but was earning just too much (40k/w) for a rotation spot.
Canales, who also joined on a free deal, is the one that could hopefully replace Joaquin as Targetganche in Guido's Cerberus tactic and provide the shadow strikers with some lovely throughballs.
One of the scouts was assigned to watch African U-20 qualification games and came across with the promising center back Mohamed Kouassi and fullback Christian Gyimah, who both have big potential and will also be used to strengthen the reserve team during a short term and hopefully be a part of the first team in the long term:
As the last deals of the summer transfer windows, I tried to finish some loan deals with one or another potential wonderkid. Playing UCL will force us to rotate a bit more in the first month of the season. Goncalo Guedes decided to chose Real Sociedad over us, but probabably we were just to late to hijack the deal as I realized too late that PSG made him available for loan. Instead of this the management of Betis announced 2 year loan deals for wonderkids Moise Kean, Rodrigo Bentancur and Weston McKennie, all three look already capable of having an impact on the first team:
Thanks to the 45M (22.5M as initial payment) that Betis gets as part of the La Liga Santander TV rights for the season 2018/19 the finance looks much better now. Not counting yet the money from the UCL, I think during this season we can start to think about investing some money in to the various facilities and the academy. Hopefully the board request will be granted...
The first youth intake was pretty successful, with Mikel Barbero and Nico Jiménez we have two players who will most likely make their way into the first team in a few seasons. Both will be instantly added to the development list and Mikel Barbero is already destined to bring success to the reserve team next season. He just assisted two goals in his first appearance in the U19 competition. I'd say the intake is pretty impressive, keeping in mind the youth recruitment is not yet at the top.
The players on my watchlist developed quite well, enough of playing time for them in the "B Team". Pol Lozano, Róber and Julio have been granted enough playtime in the reserves team.
|Pol Lozano||Segunda División B4||19||1||2||6.94|
|Róber||Segunda División B4||33||7||2||6.79|
|Julio||Segunda División B4||36||5||4||7.03|
Pol Lozano and Julio are currently playing on the same position, so a loan for Pol might be a good solution as Osasuna, Lugo and Cordoba showed some major interest. Anyhow, Pol Lozano looks like one of the hottest prospects in the academy at the moment with offers from Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham and Paris St. Germain.Due to the high interest, a new contract has been offered with a increased buyout fee from 3.8M to 15M. Let's hope we don't lose him already after just 1 year at the club ...
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