We're still waiting for official confirmation on the Betis website, but it's been so widely reported elsewhere that I think we can take it as read that Chechu Dorado is leaving for Villareal.
If you hadn't been following the club closely over the past couple of years you might wonder why the departure of a 31-year-old central defender who's made just seven league appearaces this season would provoke such an avalanche of heartfelt tributes from fans and journalists alike. But in the two and half years he's been with Betis, Chechu Dorado has been so much more than a very decent defender. In many ways he's the very epitome of how far the club has come.
In the years immediately leading up to 2010 - if you can remember that far back - Betis players had a reputation for being overpaid, underperforming and way too quick to take advantage of their status as city superstars. And look where it got the club: relegated, subsequently marooned in Segunda, and €80million in debt.
But, whether by accident or design, in the summer of 2010 everything changed. Pepe Mel arrived ready to work, and insisted on a new group of footballers who shared his values. Rubén Castro, Jorge Molina, Salva Sevilla and Chechu Dorado all came into town with a similar profile - experienced players who'd only ever been at smaller clubs and for whom a contract with Betis was a huge opportunity they didn't want to waste. All of them seemed to regard representing the club not as a free pass to funland, but as a responsibility, a privilege and - perhaps most importantly - a job. They worked hard, earned their (very reasonable) salaries, and turned the ship around. Today Betis are fourth in Primera.
At 31, Chechu Dorado might even admit himself that he is not fast enough or big enough to be a truly top-class Primera defender, but he compensates for these genetic deficiencies with cleverness, leadership by example, and quiet determination, and by any measure has been an outstanding servant for the club. He was comfortably the key defender in Betis's promotion season, and more than held his own last year, too. I get the impression that his release now - six months before, strictly speaking, his contract is up - is a favour to allow him to secure his future, and if so, it's well deserved. We've been lucky to have him.
l At Villareal, of course, he'll join up Jonathan Pereira, who is officially on loan there from Betis - and also Juanma, the ex-Bético right midfielder who's been without a club since September but has just signed for the Yellow Submarine. We wish them all well.
Pic from Betisweb