Following West Bromwich Albion's announcement that he has been named their new coach, today's piece is on Pepe Mel.
There is a bit of confusion about him, so I’ll attempt to clear things up and take you through his career.
He started his playing career at Real Madrid, joining them at the age of 11. He was sent on loan at a number of different clubs, with his first team in the first division being Osasuna. From there, he joined Castellon in the second division and was their top goalscorer.
His form for Castellon earned him a move to Real Betis, where he spent four years as the focal point of their attack and was the top scorer in the division in the 1989/90 season.
He moved into coaching and did well with Alaves, going close to leading them to promotion from the second division and managing to get them to the semi-finals of the cup.
His spell at Alaves came to an end when he did not renew his contract following the arrival of owner Dmitry Pietrman.
He was swiftly snapped up by Poli Ejido, where he managed to stave off relegation. He was sacked the following season, which set him free to join Rayo Vallecano in 2006. The club were in Segunda B league when he arrived and he led them to promotion.
In 2008/09, Vallecano had a great season—finishing fifth—but he was axed the following campaign after a series of bad results.
In 2010, he joined Betis, who were in a perilous financial state at the time. He managed to steady the ship and won promotion as champions. In February 2012, 11 years after first becoming a coach, he racked up his half-century of games as a manager in the top flight.
During the season when he won promotion with Betis, his side were by far the best team. He masterminded a win over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey, although they lost the tie over two legs. Former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola spoke of him as one of his toughest opponents. Betis pressed high, defended high, played with pace and drive, and made life difficult for Barcelona.
He will be remembered for a couple of things at Betis in the first division.
After a good start to the season with four wins, they managed to go 10 games without a win. Betis remained loyal, which is something they had not done before, as they could see he had style and personality, and his side played with a real attacking verve.
The second thing he will be remembered for is how he championed the academy. He gave debuts to 16 players from the youth system.
In 2012/13, there was a jump in quality at Betis. He secured qualification for the Europa League, which earned him a contract renewal. The following season—the current one—was not positive and he was sacked.
Four years in charge of any team in Spain is some achievement and he was remembered fondly. He cried during his exit press conference, while the fans hit out at the owner and director of football—not the coach.
His passion was always appreciated, his love for the club was never in doubt, but the club felt there was a need for change.
What Does He Bring to West Brom?
He brings ambition, passion, style and a brand of football that is aggressive and exciting. West Brom will see a man who will promote from within, as he is not afraid to give youth a chance.
On the back of Spain’s brilliant form on the international stage, there have been a lot of players who have come to England. There have not been many coaches, but the excellence of coaching in Spain has made the country's football what it is. West Brom will hope that rubs off on everyone at The Hawthorns.
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