He made his fortune shifting second-hand TVs, is utterly devoted to the Christ of the Great Power, and carries money – lots and lots of it – around in black plastic bags. He owes the taxman 7m euros, sacked a player for “not trying”, hardly batted an eyelid when a former business partner mysteriously disappeared, and modestly named a stadium after himself. But what Real Betis president Manuel RuÃz de Lopera (above) really wants is to be loved – which is why he drives round the city picking up stray dogs.
Which is also why he once spent £28m on pointless show-pony DenÃlson, why every six months or so he announces “right that’s it, I’m leaving” in a desperate bid to get the bÃ©ticos down on their knees going “oh please stay, Don ManuÃ©, pleeeease”, and why Betis’s current crisis, and their fans’ reaction to it, cuts so deep.
It also helps to explain why Betis have found themselves in crisis in the first place, why the side that qualified for this season’s Champions League for the first time in their history and won the Copa del Rey, are bottom of the table having scored just 10 goals all season. Why they are in real danger of going down.
It’s all gone horribly wrong and this weekend’s desperate nil-nil draw with fellow relegation candidates Espanyol summed up the way things have been going, one Tottingham-supporting match reporter writing: “Ossie Ardiles used to tell the story of how they had to repeat the penalty scene from Escape to Victory 46 times because Sylvester Stallone couldn’t save a thing. Even if he had been in goal yesterday, Betis still wouldn’t have scored.”