Holding midfielders are not usually headline-makers, so you may be surprised to learn that the Betis player who's garnered most column inches over the Christmas break has been our hirsute destroyer, José Alberto Cañas.
Actually, the reason's quite simple. Cañas, who's 25 and has worked his way up through the Betis ranks, is out of contract in the summer and from Tuesday onwards is officially allowed to talk to other clubs. And although Betis have offered him a new contract and would love him to stay, it's already obvious that he's highly unlikely to be in verdiblanco next season.
I'm afraid it's all to do with the harsh realities of both the Spanish economy and Betis's own financial situation. As director José Antonio Bosch explained in a radio interview the other day, "I understand that his agents have already receieved offers from abroad that are three times what we can afford to pay him. There are some people who say we should make more of an effort, but that effort would cost us and right now we simply can't afford what the player is asking. I can understand young people who want to go abroad when this country can't give them the future they want - indeed, I have relatives working abroad for exactly this reason."
And that's just the way it has to be. President Miguel Guillén has been making much the same point this week, even suggesting that relegation would be less of a threat to the long-term future of the club than overpaying their players (and therefore risking bankruptcy), so I think we'll simply have to get used to waving goodbye to some old favourites. Iriney left for Granada last summer; it looks like Cañas will follow him out of the exit door - possibly heading to England - in six months' time.
Of course, as we found with Iriney, defensive midfielders are not impossible to replace. Coaches, though, are a different matter - so perhaps we should be more worried about a report suggesting that Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner wants Pepe Mel to take over from hapless Paul Lambert. But let's not panic. The money would be good - at least three times what he earns at Betis - and all Spanish coaches are envious of the power that English managers wield, but it's still hard to see him leaving right now.