pepe mel“The objectives are clear. Get as far as possible in three competitions. It is our obligation”.

Of course Don Pepe is referring to La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League. Mel is under no illusion that the squad needs improving and strengthening to be able to fulfil this obligation and compete on all three fronts.

The club haven’t been messing around during the off-season and have already taken steps to improve the first team squad by making six signings; the latest of which is goalkeeper Guillermo Sara, although Mel did state of Sara, “no es jugador del Betis” – he is not a Betis player – because he hasn’t signed anything officially. Sara has been in the city of Seville since Thursday so I think we can say his signing is imminent.

Mel said he is in permanent contact with Vlada (Vlada Stosic – the director of football), Emilio (Emilio Vega – one of the technical secretaries) and Keke (Keke Duran – another technical secretary) and that he is satisfied with their work.

Mel’s priority now is to sign another centre back after Mario’s (more than likely) departure to give the squad good strength is depth. At the moment Betis have Paulao, Perquis and Amaya in their ranks, one more top player will make this position hotly contested.

A player of Verdu’s caliber will do! Of Verdu, Mel states that he is not a replacement for Beñat. He is absolutely right, considering that Verdu is a much more offensive player than Beñat who liked to sit back and dictate play from the centre of the field. Verdu will also be wearing the number 10 shirt; a shirt number for an attacking midfielder if ever there was one.

He also talks about Betis B and their relegation to la Tercera – Spain’s huge fourth tier of football. This is important because the Betis first team get lots of home-grown talent from the B team, but Mel says it doesn’t disrupt his plans and that “if there is someone that can provide [for the first team], it doesn’t matter where they come from.”

I think Betis also need some ‘lateral’ defenders, which Mel also comments on. At the minute we have Javi Chica, Nacho, Alex Martinez and Angel Lopez (although he isn’t listed on the club website?). Mel says that new signing from Real Madrid Castilla, Juanfran, can help out in the right back position or right midfield.

Of course, pre-season is the perfect opportunity to try out players in different positions and combinations.

Mel concludes with a positive and as ever puts a little perspective on proceedings.

“We want our people to have the outlook of a beautiful year, look back and remember 2010, the chaos the club was in. Enjoy the year and the team will not disappoint. The coaching staff will make sure that everything is functioning. The new players already know what Betis is about, and are beginning to understand the home and feel it.”

First press conference done. Here’s to a fantastic season!

Viva el Betis, manque pierda!