Smart Transfers: Real Betis

As the winter transfer window has drawn to a close, we will use Smarterscout’s advanced metrics and league benchmarking to assess the transfer business of selected teams that caught our eye.

Real Betis have had a fairly active winter transfer window with departures and arrivals alike. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are right in the thick of the European battle so the departures of Luiz Henrique, Borja Iglesias and Andrés Guardado might seem significant setbacks, but none of them have been regular starters this season. From that perspective, Betis’ transfer business makes sense as an exercise in maintaining squad depth.

Cédric Bakambu (from Galatasaray)

Cédric Bakambu was signed for €5 million on deadline day, which appears to be a bit of a panic buy after the late departure of Iglesias.

The DR Congo international had a decent track record over the last few years in Greece and China, but he did not see a great deal of game time after joining Galatasaray last summer.

His overall track record suggests he could be a decent striker in La Liga, but at the age of 32, one wonders if he is crossing the twilight of his career. As a backup, though, Bakambu should be a decent option for a season or two at least.

Ezequiel Ávila (from Osasuna)

For a lower fee of €4 million, Ezequiel Ávila seems to be a smarter signing who should better fit into the squad.

The Argentine forward has been used as a right winger more often of late, but he spent more time as a striker before that. In both positions, though, he played a similar role – that of a target forward.

Ávila’s standout attributes include his tenacity and success in aerial duels. Additionally, he also poses a serious shooting threat from both positions. Clearly, the ex-Osasuna forward is suited to a more direct style of play. Real Betis have been happy to play in such a way especially without Isco on the field, so Ávila should be a good addition to the team.

Pablo Fornals (from West Ham United)

Speaking of Isco, Pablo Fornals’ signing appears to be a move to add a more like-for-like backup option to him. When the ex-Real Madrid star is on the pitch almost all of Betis’ play is channelled through him, but his absence leads to a big shift in approach as they become more direct.

Profile-wise, Fornals is quite a similar player to Isco. He can play off the left coming inside but thrives best as a number 10. In both roles, his passing toward goal stands out and his chance creation is what mainly drives his attacking output.

As with Ávila, this seems another smart transfer on Real Betis’ part which perfectly suits their squad and playing style.

Johnny Cardoso (from Internacional)

At the other end of midfield, Real Betis were in need of an anchoring defensive midfielder to support the more progressive options they already had in that position.

They moved very early to sign Johnny Cardoso from Internacional in Brazil. Besides offering good defensive work including decent duel success, the 22-year-old midfielder can be handy on the ball with good link-up passing and dribbling.

Johnny quickly seems to have become a regular fixture in the starting XI for Granada after taking the first couple of weeks to settle in, so signing him for €6 million looks like a decent piece of business right now.


Without making too many signings, Real Betis have had a pretty successful January transfer window. The signings of Ávila, Fornals and Johnny make up for their departures while adding depth and quality to the squad. All the transfer fees they have paid were well under eight figures too, so they seem to have gotten good value for their money.

The signing of Bakambu is perhaps slightly questionable given his age and the time they made that call, but he is reportedly on a relatively low wage which will keep his gross cost well under eight figures too. He could turn out to be a handy addition to their attack, but even at worst, cannot overshadow three other smart-looking signings.


By Neel Shelat

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