For many a Spanish manager in La Liga, the goal is to get out of the country as soon as possible and move to England, The Promised Land of football management where the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson lasted 290 years. Pepe Mel was certainly among that group.
What Premier League coaches who have never experienced La Primera will take for granted are the tiny little details absent from most of their colleagues' jobs in Spain; knowing when matches are going to take place more than a couple of weeks in advance, not playing at midnight, getting paid on time and having something called a transfer budget.
All of these benefits and more must have attracted Mel who, soon after his appointment at The Hawthorns, told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser that the English game is “something that has always interested me. As a coach I wanted to earn the right to have a career here (in England).”
Mel is a figure who has almost certainly achieved that, after transforming Real Betis from a second-division club to a team in the Europa League over the course of three seasons. Like fellow refugees from La Liga, Mauricio Pochettino and Manuel Pellegrini, the Madrid-born manager is set to thrive in an environment of comparative organisation and calm.
The first hurdle he will have to overcome is recovering from a painful and wholly outrageous sacking at a Betis outfit with cowardly bosses and fans that campaigned in favour of their much-loved former leader. It was a move that clearly still stings.
The new Baggies boss began his playing career in the youth ranks of Real Madrid, but never progressed to the first team. Instead the former striker played for more modest outfits before moving into coaching in 1999, ending his current spell in Spain at Betis, the team he took over in 2010.
At the time the club were still reeling from a painful relegation and struggling to survive life in administration with crippling debts. Writing in AS, Juan Jiménez recalled that the former Rayo Vallecano boss found a group of players that “began training as if it was a stag party in Miami”. However, Mel still managed to take Betis back to the Primera in his first season, and then stablised them before a seventh-place finish and qualification to the Europa League last year.
However, the current campaign started badly, as Mel lost crucial striker Rubén Castro to injury and was left with a squad that never recovered from losing the likes of Beñat and José Cañas in the summer. Mel managed to develop those two players successfully as a necessity, at the Spanish club with next to no money to spend.
The fact that Betis continue to struggle under a new coach and have now since fired their sporting director reflect the fact that the Baggies' new man was simply being used as scapegoat, a familiar ruse for presidents in La Liga whose main goal is self-protection.
Mel is a proper coaching specialist, has produced proven success with no money to spend and survived under pressure at Betis, a team with one of the most passionate supports in La Liga. The new West Brom boss has earned the chance to make his dream come to true.
NEWS Struggling Betis sack coach Garrido (the man who replaced Mel, by the way)
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