Quique Setién, coach of the Betis, does not hide his predilection for Aissa Mandi. In public and in private, the coach of the Verdiblanco team has no problem in praising this international French center for Algeria, 27, who has become one of the leaders of the Verdiblan defense. The last time was at the Rennes airport, where Betis was returning after playing a Europa League match last February. When Mandi spoke with a journalist, Quique Setién was heard: "There you have Mandi. Some wanted Pezzella to stay because Mandi did not give the level. "
The phrase had the sense of praising the figure of a player who had both feet outside Betis when the Cantabrian coach arrived in the summer of 2017 to the Andalusian bench. The coach began to know his players. Mandi had arrived in the summer of 2016, signed in exchange for four million euros from the Stade de Reims, where he was the captain and emblem. However, his first year at Betis was quite irregular.
The best Betic defense was the Argentine Germán Pezzella, who played 37 games and scored a goal. Setien, however, decided to bet on Mandi. The coach caught the attention that Pezzella only talked about the possibility of playing the World Cup in Russia with Argentina, an obsession with the ex-defense of River, who barely attended to Setien when he tried to instill his concepts of the game. Mandi knew how to listen and she won the coach's favor. Pezzella was transferred to Fiorentina and Mandi progressed to be an irreplaceable player in Betis, who receives tonight Barcelona (20.45, Movistar Partidazo).
"I've said it several times. In 40 years I did not see an uncle progress as Mandi has done since I've been here, "says Setién, who is able to put the Algerian as an example of overcoming when a group of young children ask him about the player he most valued on his team. Mandi is an exquisite center in the technical field, which benefits the start of the game of a Betis molded with a style of touch and possession. In fact, everything starts with Mandi, to the point that the central is until this day the player who most passes tries LaLiga with 2,040 in 26 league clashes. The second is Rakitic with 1.917, according to Opta. With 93% success in the pass, only Arthur, Kroos and Dani Ceballos are safer on the pass than the French.
Mandi He has already played 39 games in this exercise, four more than the entire previous year, plus two goals. "Everything he has learned and improved is based on effort and work. It's like a robot that memorizes everything and then puts it into practice, "stresses Setién on Mandi, who played his 100th game with Betis in the semifinal copera match against Valencia at the Mestalla. Mandi takes care of his diet and surprises the coaching staff by requesting videos from the rivals to improve their knowledge of them. Especially with the fast strikers, with whom he usually suffers. In addition, he is the player most used by Setién this season, to the point of having played 3,495 minutes. Against Barcelona, in addition to trying to stop Messi and company, Betis football will return from their boots.