The 5-0 defeat to Real Madrid signalled the end of Garrido's 47-day tenure at a club that is both troubled and doomed
Farewell then, Juan Carlos Garrido: it was bad while it lasted and it didn't last long. It is 48 days since Real Betis Balompié sacked Pepe Mel and 47 since they presented Garrido as the man who would turn them round. Instead, it is he who has turned around and walked out of the door, not welcome any more. Six days after the president Miguel Guillén said it was too soon to question the manager, one day after he said that they weren't going to sack their manager, Real Betis have sacked their manager. Another body carried out of Heliópolis – and it probably won't be the last. "These have been convulsive days, with problems daily," said Garrido.
An hour had gone during Betis's match against Real Madrid on Saturday afternoon and Garrido was on the touchline, talking to Juanfran, explaining what he wanted from his second substitute. As he did so, 30 or 40 metres away the ball dropped to Ángel Di María to score an outrageous goal. Garrido stared straight ahead, powerless. Down the tunnel and into the dressing room, his first substitute was in the shower. Rubén Castro, top scorer last season, changed, walked out of the stadium and headed home without a word. He had missed one goal already and he didn't wait to see the next, scored by Álvaro Morata – a goal so soft, so apologetic, so badly defended, that it summed up the afternoon.
At one end of the stadium, a new scoreboard had been installed. It has been there two weeks, really rubbing it in. Real Betis 0, Real Madrid 5, it said.
When the full-time whistle went a minute later, Betis had equalled their worst ever run without a win in the top flight and sat on the bottom of the table. One of the things that Garrido did when he arrived was insist that his team headed into the centre circle after the game to applaud the fans and thank them for their support. This time, they refused. Supporters had spent the game chanting that the players didn't deserve to wear the shirt. The pressure has been unbearable– even under Mel there were training ground confrontations and players now routinely leave by the back door to avoid angry fans – but some agreed. "We don't deserve the salaries we get each month," said Javier Matilla.
Betis's fans had called for the board to resign and for Garrido to "go now!". The man they did support was the man who had already gone, in tears, a month and a half ago: West Bromwich Albion's new coach, Pepe Mel. Up in the directors' box, the final whistle was the cue for Canal Plus's reporter to seek out Miguel Guillén, the Betis president, who insisted that he was not going to sack Garrido. Down in the dressing room, a meeting was underway. It was frank and furious and it lasted two hours; Garrido didn't last much longer. By Sunday evening, a short statement posted on the club's website at 7.35pm began: "Juan Carlos Garrido is no longer the coach of Real Betis."
Garrido has been replaced by Gabi Calderón, a former player who took Saudi Arabia to the 2006 World Cup and a man whose appointment means that Betis have now had more coaches than league wins. When Garrido took over at Betis they were bottom of the table, a point from safety. Now they are bottom of the table, eight points from safety. They have eleven points from twenty games. If they are to survive, they will probably need nine wins from the 18 remaining games. Even before this weekend, one report described them as being in intensive care. Now there's a priest at the door, waiting to read them the last rites.
Under Garrido, Betis won twice in 10 games but both were virtually worthless: a 2-1 victory at Second Division B side Lleida was followed by a 2-2 home draw that took them through to the next round of the Copa del Rey, where they beat Athletic Bilbao in the first leg and lost in the second to go out. There was a 0-0 draw with NHK Rijeka in the Europa League. And in La Liga, they drew one of five, 0-0 against Valladolid, and lost the others. Defeats against Almería and Osasuna, direct rivals for relegation, were especially costly. "I feel like the month I have been here has been pointless," Garrido said in a press conference in midweek. Not pointless, exactly but almost: Betis collected just one point from 15, scoring three and conceding 15.
That appearance was the last straw; it would have taken a miracle for the coach to have survived beyond this weekend. Not so much because he had admitted wasting a month, but because he had accused the club of doing so. The internal battles were laid bare, the battles and the suspicions and the jealousies, the mess he had walked into: "there are," Garrido said, "too many fronts open." He was also forced to deny rumours that he had made a commission on the deal that brought Leo Baptistao to the club, prompting him to tell El País: "There is a desire to harm me, I'm am being judged in a disgusting manner. I have never experienced anything like what I am experiencing at Betis. There are too many wars and lies surrounding the team that are hurting us."
Garrido had said that he had asked for signings and asked them to be ready for when Betis returned from the winter break. Only Leo Baptistao came in. "There have been lots of meetings, but sadly none of them have been of any use. Other players have not come in and nor do I expect them to because I don't believe anything any more," he admitted. He complained that the uncertainty over their future was undermining the players' moral, describing it as a "time bomb", and questioned the board's ability to get deals done. And then he said it: the single phrase that summed it up, hinting at the internal battles and hidden interests, the instability. "I have had three 'bosses' in the last month."
First there was Vlada Stosic, the sporting director, but then he was sacked. Then there was José Antonio Bosch, the court-appointed administrator, but then he was sacked. And then there was the president Miguel Guillén, who sacked him.
The backdrop is a complex one. In July 2010, the judge Mercedes Ayala placed an embargo on the shares owned by Betis's former president in perpetuity, Manuel Ruiz de Lopera. An investigation into Lopera for the alleged fraudulent acquisition of Betis is ongoing and he also stands accused of having arranged a fraudulent sale of his shares to Luis Oliver in 2010 in a desperate attempt to prevent the shares from being embargoed. The judge also imposed a payment plan to clear the club's €90m debt, which has been successfully adhered to, reducing the debt by almost two-thirds, and appointed three administrators to the club. One died, one left, and the other was Bosch, charged with representing Lopera's controlling interest.
It is Bosch who appointed the last two presidents and effectively named the board, first under Rafa Gordillo and now under Guillén. It was Bosch too who sacked Mel without consulting with Stosic, theoretically the man responsible for the decision, and Bosch who then sacked Stosic. But now Bosch himself has been pushed out by the board he named after it transpired that his law firm represented one the club's medical suppliers. It will be up to the judge to appoint a new administrator to manage those shares; that administrator could then construct an entirely new board, and so it goes round again. Meanwhile, Lopera waits; Garrido heads home; and, barring a miracle, Betis head towards the Second Division.
After his side were beaten 5-0 by Real Madrid on Saturday night, Garrido was asked whether he feared that Betis would seek to turn their desperate situation round by sacking the coach. "Well," he said, "they've already tried that."
• In an office down in the corner of the Vicente Calderón, a small crowd had gathered. There was half an hour to go to kick-off between Atlético Madrid and Sevilla. Just as importantly, there were 20 minutes to go in the match between Levante and Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia and things were going rather well for the Atlético staff gazing up at the TV screen mounted on the wall.
It should not have come as a huge surprise. Levante's manager had likened going to the Camp Nou to visiting the dentist but it's going to Levante that's really like visiting the dentist: boring, painful, bloody and expensive. It was 1-1 and Barcelona were dropping two vital points. There were nerves at the Calderón but as the minutes ticked away there was little sign of Barcelona getting a breakthrough and eventually, the full-time whistle went. A small cheer went up. Then, seconds later, on a tiny delay, outside a huge cheer did.
This was an opportunity. Barcelona had dropped two points. A victory against Sevilla would take Atlético top of the table on their own for the first time in 17 years, since they won the double in 1996.
It didn't happen. For the third time this season Atlético had the chance to go top but were unable to take it. David Villa scored the first but Sevilla improved in the second half and Juanfran conceded a penalty that Ivan Rakitic scored to make it 1-1. At the full-time whistle, the Sevilla bench, which had been slowly, nervously creeping towards the pitch, ran on punching the air and embracing. "I have congratulated Simeone; I admired what they have achieved," said the Sevilla manager, Unai Emery.
Afterwards every question talked about missed opportunities, the blow, the disappointment, but Diego Simeone was insisting otherwise: "this is a great point that allows us to stay in a privileged position at the top on 51 points," he said, smiling. "We knew that it would be a tough game, even an ugly one, and that was the way it was." He was right of course, if also wrong, and the line of questioning said much about Atlético's extraordinary season. As Filipe Luís put it: "Now teams celebrate drawing with us."
• So, Real Madrid have gained four points in a week: two victories plus two draws in a row for Atlético and Barcelona mean that all three sides are separated by just one point at the top of the table. Barcelona 51, Atlético 51, Real Madrid 50. It's going to be some title race.
• A question: could the league's best two central midfielders both be Croatian?
• Football in the rain: just better. Getafe v Real Sociedad was cold, wet and great fun.
Results: Málaga 0-0 Valencia, Betis 0-5 Real Madrid, Elche 2-0 Rayo, Granada 0-0 Osasuna, Espanyol 1-0 Celta, Getafe 2-2 Real Sociedad, Villarreal 2-0 Almería, Levante 1-1 Barcelona, Atlético 1-1 Sevilla. Tonight: Athletic-Valladolid.